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Talks On Saving 2015 Nuclear Accord With Iran Restart In Vienna

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Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani (right) and EU negotiator Enrique Mora in Vienna on August 4.

Negotiators have begun a new round of talks in Vienna on August 4 on salvaging a landmark 2015 nuclear accord between Iran and world powers.

The talks opened in the Austrian capital with a meeting between Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Bagheri Kani, and the EU's Enrique Mora, coordinator of the negotiations. Mora will again shuttle between Kani and the U.S. negotiator, Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley, because Iran refuses to hold direct talks with the United States.

The talks are the first since March, when negotiations that began last year to reintegrate the United States into the agreement stalled.

Comments made by Malley and Kani ahead of the talks indicated that neither side was overly optimistic about the prospect of a breakthrough.

Robert Malley, the U.S. special envoy for Iran, said on August 3 that he was headed to Vienna to resume the negotiations "with expectations in check."

He said that the United States "is prepared for a good faith attempt to reach a deal," adding, "It will shortly be clear if Iran is prepared for the same."

Kani put the onus on Washington to compromise, saying in a tweet that the United States should "show maturity & act responsibly."

Under the deal with the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and China, Iran pledged to curb its nuclear program in return for relief from economic sanctions.

But since Washington's unilateral pullout from the deal in 2018 under then-President Donald Trump, Tehran has gradually broken from compliance with the accord.

In a last-ditch effort last month, the EU's top diplomat, Josep Borrell, submitted a compromise proposal and called on the parties to accept it to avoid a "dangerous nuclear crisis."

Mora previously said the two sides were close to a deal before talks broke down in March.

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters at the White House on August 4 that time is getting "very short" for Iran to accept a return to the deal.

There is "a deal on the table" and the Iranians "ought to take it," he said. "You've heard the president say we're not going to wait forever for Iran to take this deal."

Months of inaction and increased international isolation of Iranian ally Russia since the Kremlin attacked Ukraine in February have lowered hopes for a new deal that slowly emerged after another lull accompanying the election last year of hard-line Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi.

U.S. President Joe Biden's administration says it favors a return to the deal, including lifting key sanctions, but has rejected an Iranian demand to reverse the blacklisting of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps as a terrorist organization.

Russia's envoy to the talks, Mikhail Ulyanov, also tweeted about the return to negotiations.

Borrell said the draft text includes "hard-won compromises by all sides" and "addresses, in precise detail, the sanctions lifting as well as the nuclear steps needed to restore" the 2015 pact.

Rafael Grossi, the head of the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), on August 2 warned Iran's program was "moving ahead very, very fast" and "growing in ambition and capacity."

On July 25, Iran said monitoring cameras belonging to the IAEA will not be turned back on until an agreement is reached.

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, and AP
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