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Iran Begins Annual War Games Ahead Of Scheduled Talks On Reviving Nuclear Deal


In this photo released by the Iranian Army on November 7, troops participate in a maneuver in a coastal area in southeastern Iran.

Iran has begun annual war games, state TV reported on November 7, less than a month before a scheduled fresh round of talks on reviving the landmark Iran nuclear deal.

The report said navy and air force units as well as ground forces were participating in a more than 1 million-square-kilometer area east of the strategic Strait of Hormuz.

Nearly 20 percent of all oil shipping passes through the strait to the Gulf of Oman and Indian Ocean.

Fighter jets, helicopters, military transport aircraft, submarines, and drones were also expected to take part in the drill. It wasn't immediately clear how long the exercise would last.

Dubbed Zolfaghar-1400, the war games are aimed at “improving readiness in confronting foreign threats and any possible invasion," state TV said.

The drill comes amid efforts to resuscitate the 2015 deal between Iran and world powers. President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the agreement in 2018, but Britain, France, Germany, China, and Russia have tried to preserve the accord.

The nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), promises Iran economic incentives in exchange for limits on its nuclear program, and is meant to prevent Tehran from developing a nuclear bomb.

President Joe Biden has said he is willing to rejoin the pact if Iran returns to full compliance, but indirect negotiations between Tehran and world powers that started in April in Vienna were put on hold in June after the Islamic republic elected hard-liner Ebrahim Raisi as president.

Iran said on November 5 that it had increased its stockpile of 60 percent-enriched uranium to 25 kilograms, an almost four-fold increase from the level reported in June.

"So far, we have produced 25 kilograms of 60 percent uranium, which, except for countries with nuclear weapons, no other country is able to produce," Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said.

Kamalvandi added that Iran's stockpile of 20 percent-enriched uranium has reached over 210 kilograms, well beyond the 120-kilogram target set by parliament.

The nuclear agreement, which offered curbs on international sanctions in exchange for Iran limiting its nuclear program, caps the purity to which Tehran can refine uranium at 3.67 percent -- enough for civilian nuclear energy and far below the 90 percent purity needed for an atomic weapon.

Iran has denied seeking nuclear weapons and said its breaches are reversible if Washington lifts sanctions and rejoins the agreement.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Iranian counterpart, Hossein Amirabdollahian, have called for the Iran nuclear deal to be restored to its original form.

"The parties focused on the situation around the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran's nuclear program and the prospects for resuming the Vienna negotiations on the JCPOA," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on November 6 after a telephone call between the two top diplomats.

"They called for restoring the nuclear deal in its original balanced form, approved by the United Nations Security Council. They confirmed that it was the only way to ensure the rights and interests of all parties to the comprehensive agreement."

After months of delays, the European Union, Iran, and the United States announced last week that indirect talks to resuscitate the deal would resume November 29 in Vienna.

With reporting by AP
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