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France Leaves Open IAEA Action Against Iran Even As Nuclear Talks Near


U.S. Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley will be heading the American delegation in Vienna, although he won't participate directly.

France says it could still take diplomatic action along with its partners against Iran for its lack of cooperation on nuclear issues, even as the sides have said talks on the matter will resume later this month.

On November 4, Paris said it was consulting with its allies over how to respond to Iran's lack of cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN’s Vienna-based nuclear watchdog.

"Together with our partners, we remain very attentive to ensuring that Iran respects its commitments, and we remain in close consultation on the response to be provided," French Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Anne-Claire Legendre told reporters.

"Iran must resume dialogue and cooperation with the agency without delay to make progress on outstanding issues," she said.

Nuclear talks between world powers and Tehran on reviving a 2015 nuclear deal are set to resume in Vienna on November 29 following a five-month hiatus, amid growing Western concerns over Iran’s nuclear advances.

The talks will be chaired by EU mediator Enrique Mora and will be attended by representatives of the remaining parties to the agreement -- Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia, and Iran -- the bloc’s European External Action Service said in a statement on November 3.

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri, who serves as Tehran's chief negotiator, said on Twitter that the date was set in a phone call with Mora.

The State Department said U.S. Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley will be heading the American delegation in Vienna and that Washington hopes Tehran returns to the talks ready to negotiate and in good faith.

Former U.S. President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the world powers' landmark accord with Iran in 2018 and reimposed crippling punitive measures despite Iran's compliance with the deal, which curbed its nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief.

In response, Tehran has gradually breached limits imposed by the pact, including on uranium enrichment, refining it to higher purity, and installing advanced centrifuges.

Trump's successor, Joe Biden, who took office in January, has pledged to rejoin the deal if Iran returns to full compliance.

In September, Western powers decided against calling for a resolution criticizing Iran at the IAEA after Tehran agreed to prolong monitoring of some nuclear activities and invited agency chief Rafael Grossi to Iran for talks.

The decision not to push for a resolution by the IAEA's 35-nation board was seen as an effort not to escalate the dispute and possibly dash hopes of resuming the wider Vienna talks.

But the United States, Britain, France, and Germany have become increasingly frustrated that Iran has failed to fully comply with a monitoring agreement with the IAEA, that it continues to breach the 2015 accord, and has yet to allow Grossi to come to Tehran for talks that had been promised in September.

"Together with our partners, we remain very attentive to ensuring that Iran respects its commitments, and we remain in close consultation on the response to be provided on this," French Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Legendre said.

With reporting by Reuters and AFP
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