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Iran Strikes Hard Line at Nuke Talks   11/30 06:15

   Iran struck a hard line Tuesday after just one day of restarted talks in 
Vienna over its tattered nuclear deal, suggesting everything discussed in 
previous rounds of diplomacy could be renegotiated.

   TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Iran struck a hard line Tuesday after just one day of 
restarted talks in Vienna over its tattered nuclear deal, suggesting everything 
discussed in previous rounds of diplomacy could be renegotiated.

   Speaking to Iranian state television, Ali Bagheri, Iran's top nuclear 
negotiator, referred to everything discussed thus far as merely a "draft." It 
remained unclear whether that represented an opening gambit by Iran's new 
president or signaled serious trouble for those hoping to restore the 2015 deal 
that saw Tehran strictly limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the 
lifting of economic sanctions.

   The United States left the deal under then-President Donald Trump's "maximum 
pressure" campaign against Tehran in 2018. Since the deal's collapse, Iran now 
enriches small amounts of uranium up to 60% purity -- a short step from 
weapons-grade levels of 90%. Iran also spins advanced centrifuges barred by the 
accord, and its uranium stockpile now far exceeds the accord's limits.

   President Joe Biden has said America's willing to re-enter the deal, though 
the negotiations continue with U.S. officials not in the room as in previous 
rounds of talks since Washington's withdrawal.

   "Drafts are subject to negotiation. Therefore nothing is agreed on unless 
everything has been agreed on," Bagheri said. "On that basis, all discussions 
that took place in the six rounds are summarized and are subject to 
negotiations. This was admitted by all parties in today's meeting as well."

   That directly contradicted comments Monday by the European Union diplomat 
leading the talks.

   "The Iranian delegation represents a new administration in Tehran with new 
understandable political sensibilities, but they have accepted that the work 
done over the six first rounds is a good basis to build our work ahead, so no 
point in going back," Enrique Mora said.

   Another state TV segment saw Bagheri in Vienna saying Iran demanded a 
"guarantee by America not to impose new sanctions" or not re-impose previously 
lifted sanctions.

   Mohammed Eslami, the country's civilian nuclear chief, reiterated that 
demand in comments to Iran's state-run IRNA news agency.

   "The talks (in Vienna) are about return of the U.S. to the deal and they 
have to lift all sanctions and this should be in practice and verifiable," he 
said. He did not elaborate.

   The U.S. has imposed a slew of sanctions on Iran since the 1979 takeover of 
the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. Some eventually directly dealt with the country's 
nuclear program, while others targeted Tehran for what Washington describes as 
destabilizing actions in the Mideast. Under the 2015 nuclear deal, the U.S. 
lifted nuclear sanctions, which returned when Washington pulled out of the 
accord.

   Iran maintains its atomic program is peaceful. However, U.S. intelligence 
agencies and international inspectors say Iran had an organized nuclear weapons 
program up until 2003. Nonproliferation experts fear any brinkmanship could 
push Tehran toward even more extreme measures to try to force the West to lift 
sanctions.

   Making matters more difficult, United Nations nuclear inspectors remain 
unable to fully monitor Iran's program after Tehran limited their access. A 
trip to Iran last week by the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, 
Rafael Grossi, failed to make any progress on that issue.

   Talks in Vienna aimed at re-imposing curbs on Iran's nuclear program resumed 
Monday after a more than five-month hiatus as hard-line President Ebrahim Raisi 
took power. Raisi, a protg of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, 
campaigned on getting sanctions lifted. However, fellow hard-liners within 
Iran's theocracy long have criticized the nuclear deal as giving too much away 
to the West.

   Mikhail Ulyanov, Russia's top representative to the talks, tweeted Tuesday 
that the resumption of negotiations was "quite successful."

   "Participants decided to continue without delay the drafting process in two 
working groups -- on sanctions lifting and nuclear issues," he wrote. "This 
work starts immediately."

   Israel, Iran's regional, nuclear-armed rival, kept up its own pressure amid 
the negotiations. Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, in a video address 
delivered to nations negotiating in Vienna, warned that he saw Iran trying to 
"end sanctions in exchange for almost nothing."

   "Iran deserves no rewards, no bargain deals and no sanctions relief in 
return for their brutality," Bennett said in the video that he later posted to 
Twitter. "I call upon our allies around the world: Do not give in to Iran's 
nuclear blackmail."

 
 
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