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U.S. Says It Plans No Additional Steps On Iran Ahead Of EU-Proposed 'Diplomatic Conversation'

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White House press secretary Jen Psaki: "It is simply an invitation to have a conversation, a diplomatic conversation.” (file photo)

The United States plans no additional actions in response to pressure from Tehran ahead of proposed talks on a return to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, the White House said on February 19.

The White House has “no plan to take additional steps" on Iran in advance of having a "diplomatic conversation" about a possible U.S. return to the deal, spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

Psaki noted the European Union has floated the idea of a conversation among Iran and the six major powers that struck the agreement: Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United States, known as the P5+1.

"The Europeans have invited us and...it is simply an invitation to have a conversation, a diplomatic conversation,” she said, speaking to reporters on Air Force One as President Joe Biden flew to Michigan.

The European Union is working on organizing an informal meeting with all participants, a senior EU official said on February 19.

Meanwhile, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Grossi, arrived in Tehran on February 20 ahead of Iran’s deadline for U.S. sanctions to be lifted, state media reported.

Grossi is expected to meet Ali Akbar Salehi, the U.S.-educated head of the civilian Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, and Iran's ambassador to the IAEA, Kazem Gharibabadi, among other officials, Iranian media reported.

Grossi’s trip came after Iran warned that it would ban short-notice IAEA inspections on its nuclear facilities by February 21 if the United States does not lift the sanctions it has imposed on Tehran since 2018.

In an address on February 19 to the Munich Security Conference, Biden said that Washington is prepared to reengage with the international partners that signed the deal on Iran's nuclear program.

Biden also said his administration is going to work with Europe and “other partners” to address Iran’s “destabilizing activities across the Middle East.”

In 2015, the P5+1 -- the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, plus Germany -- signed a landmark agreement with Tehran that called for curbs on Iran’s nuclear program in return for the lifting of international sanctions.

But in 2018, U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the accord and reimposed crippling sanctions on Iran. In response, Tehran has increasingly breached limits it had agreed to under the pact.

The United States on February 19 also notified the UN Security Council that it had withdrawn Trump's September 2020 invocation of the so-called “snap-back” mechanism under which it insisted that all UN sanctions against Iran were to be reimposed.

The United States said earlier this week that it was ready to talk to Iran about both nations returning to the deal. But the countries have been at odds over which one should make the first step.

Iran has said the United States must first lift sanctions, while Washington says Tehran must first return to compliance with the deal.

Iran said on February 19 that it would “immediately reverse” actions that contradict a 2015 nuclear agreement once U.S. sanctions are lifted.

When sanctions are lifted, "we will then immediately reverse all remedial measures. Simple," Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Twitter.

With reporting by Reuters and AFP
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