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Iran Reiterates That It's Up To U.S. To Move First On Saving Nuclear Deal

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Esmaeil Baghaei Hamaneh, Iran's ambassador in Geneva (file photo)

The United States should take the first step toward saving the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers, Iran's ambassador in Geneva told the UN-sponsored Conference on Disarmament in Geneva on February 24.

Esmaeil Baghaei Hamaneh spoke a day after Iran officially began restricting international inspections of its nuclear facilities in a bid to pressure European countries and Washington into lifting economic sanctions and restoring the landmark nuclear deal.

"The onus is on the offending party to return, restart, and compensate for the damages as well as to reassure that they would not renege again," Ambassador Esmaeil Baghaei Hamaneh said, reiterating Tehran's long-held position.

"There is a path forward with a logical sequence as (Iranian Foreign) Minister (Mohammad Javad) Zarif recently outlined."

Iran confirmed on February 22 that it had ended its implementation of an Additional Protocol to the 2015 accord allowing for surprise inspections of nuclear-related sites.

The administration of former U.S. President Donald Trump in 2018 withdrew from the agreement that lifted most international sanctions in exchange for Iran's curbing its nuclear ambitions.

Trump gradually reimposed crippling sanctions that have impacted heavily on Iran's tattered economy.

The new administration of President Joe Biden has sought to reverse that decision, although Iran’s violations of the accord known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action (JCPOA) and the move to limit international inspections underscore the difficulty of the task.

Iran is demanding that Washington first remove punishing sanctions.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas urged Iran on February 24 to accept diplomatic overtures to preserve the nuclear accord and avoid further violations of its commitments.

"In the end, Iran needs to understand that what's important is to de-escalate and accept the offer of diplomacy that's on the table, including from the United States," Maas said.

China, which is one of the signatories of the JCPOA and a permanent member of the UN Security Council, said on February 24 that lifting U.S. sanctions on the country is key to breaking the deadlock.

“We have always believed that the return of the U.S. to the comprehensive agreement and the lifting of sanctions against Iran are the keys to breaking the deadlock in the Iranian nuclear issue," Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said at a daily news briefing in Beijing.

“The current situation on the Iranian nuclear issue is at a critical point, with both opportunities and challenges," Wang told reporters.

China, which has maintained friendly relations and close economic ties with Tehran, has long been against sanctions.

Beijing has been working with the other parties in the agreement -- Germany, France, Britain, and Russia -- to maintain the deal after Trump’s decision to pull the U.S. unilaterally out.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, and dpa
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