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Iran Voices Optimism Nuclear Deal Can Be Revived

Outgoing President Hassan Rohani (left) and President-elect Ebrahim Raisi meet in Tehran on June 23.

Outgoing Iranian President Hassan Rohani says the main issues between Tehran and world powers to revive the 2015 nuclear deal have been resolved, although Germany and France caution that hurdles remain.

The comments, made at cabinet meeting on June 23, came as other top Iranian officials signaled progress was being made at talks under way since April in Vienna.

Rohani's chief of staff, Mahmud Vaezi, said that the United States had agreed in principle to lift more than 1,000 sanctions reimposed when former U.S. President Donald Trump exited the deal three years ago.

"An agreement has been reached to remove all insurance, oil, and shipping sanctions that were imposed," Vaezi was quoted as saying by Iranian state media.

"Right now, we're discussing which of the remaining sanctions are related to the nuclear deal and which ones relate to before 2015," he said, adding that the sides were still negotiating.

U.S. national-security adviser Jake Sullivan said on June 20 there was still "a fair distance to travel," including on sanctions and on the nuclear commitments that Iran has to make to salvage the tattered deal.

The United States is present, but not directly negotiating, mainly due to Iran's refusal to meet face-to-face. Instead, the U.S. delegation is at a nearby location in Vienna, with the other delegations and EU as go-betweens.

Vaezi said Iran will also decide whether to extend its monitoring deal with the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency after its expiry on June 24.

The latest round of talks between Iran and world powers to the deal adjourned on June 20 for consultations in capitals, two days after Iran held a presidential election won by hard-liner Ebrahim Raisi.

Raisi is due to replace Rohani in August.

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi, who is also Tehran's lead nuclear negotiator, was quoted by state media on June 21 as saying that the parties were closer to a deal than ever.

"Negotiators decided to conclude this round, and return home not only for further consultations, but also for decision making," Araqchi said.

He said he hoped to finish the negotiations and possibly implement the deal while the current government is still in office.

Raisi said after his election victory that he backed discussions to revive the nuclear deal, which lifted sanctions on Iran in return for commitments to limit and monitor its nuclear program.

"We support the negotiations that guarantee our national interests...America should immediately return to the deal and fulfill its obligations under the deal," he said.

Trump abandoned the agreement in 2018 and reimposed harsh sanctions, prompting Iran to gradually violate it by ramping up enrichment.

U.S. President Joe Biden's administration is trying to restore the deal, but the sides disagree on which steps to take and in what order.

Some Iranian officials have suggested Tehran may prefer an agreement before Raisi takes office in order to avoid blame if future problems arise with the deal, which was originally negotiated by the Rohani administration only to be trashed by Trump.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has the final say on all major policy and would need to sign off on any agreement to revive the nuclear deal.

Although European parties to the deal say progress has been made, they caution that the complicated and highly technical talks still face many hurdles.

"We are making progress but there are still some nuts to crack," German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said at a joint news conference in Berlin on June 23 alongside U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Maas said a deal was possible even after the election of Raisi.

French Deputy Foreign Minister Franck Riester told lawmakers that "difficult decisions" needed to be made in the coming days and weeks.

The remaining parties to the deal are Iran, Russia, China, France, Britain, Germany, and the European Union.

Meanwhile, Iranian media reported that the authorities foiled a sabotage attempt against a building of the country's Atomic Energy Organization, although few details were provided.

With reporting by Tasnim, ISNA, and Reuters
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