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U.S., Iranian Officials Differ Starkly Over Whether Nuclear Deal 'Imminent'

By RFE/RL March 27, 2022

Officials in Iran and the United States have issued differing assessments of progress on a new deal to exchange sanctions relief for curbs on Iran's nuclear program, with Tehran suggesting a nuclear deal is "imminent" but Washington expressly challenging that view.

The rival public statements on March 27 hinted at disputes in the ongoing negotiations over the U.S.'s blacklisting of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), separation of the nuclear issue from other disagreements, and guarantees that future administrations would respect any deal.

"Yes, it's imminent. It depends on the political view of the United States," Kamal Kharrazi, a senior adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said at the Doha Forum in Qatar.

But the United States' lead negotiator to the talks, Robert Malley, said at the same event that he was not confident that a nuclear deal is imminent. He noted that "we have been close for some time now."

The comments came with the European Union's lead coordinator for the indirect U.S.-Iranian talks, Enrique Mora, due in Tehran to tackle "remaining gaps" to restoring the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) between Iran and major world powers from 2015.

Then-U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from the deal in 2018, but current President Joe Biden took office a year ago vowing to revive it.

In Qatar, Kharrazi repeated Tehran's demand that the IRGC should be removed from the U.S. list designating it as a terrorist organization, saying it is "a national army" and as such doesn't belong there.

He said Tehran supported a deal but not at the price of "anything against our independence."

Kharrazi also said Iran would demand a period of time to verify the lifting of sanctions by the United States, and said it sought U.S. guarantees that the deal would last.

Iran has been hit hard by U.S. financial and trade sanctions reimposed under Trump, who withdrew from the deal arguing that the JCPOA failed to adequately address Tehran's alleged nuclear weapons pursuits and other nefarious activities in the region.

Malley responded that the Biden administration cannot make guarantees of what future U.S. administrations might do, and said any nuclear deal and the lifting of related sanctions were not aimed at addressing other issues, including Iran's regional policy and other sanctions.

Malley said that no matter what happens with the nuclear deal, "many sanctions" will remain against the IRGC.

"The IRGC will remain sanctioned under U.S. law and our perception of the IRGC will remain," he said.

Washington will continue to work with countries in the Middle East to reduce tensions, no matter how the nuclear negotiations with Iran turn out, Malley said.

He said any new deal will be more sustainable if a nuclear deal is implemented "faithfully" and builds on other issues for the region.

Parties have signaled for weeks that the negotiations are close to an agreement, but that "political decisions" are required from Tehran and Washington.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken also arrived in Israel late on March 26 to kick off a three-country tour of the Middle East and North Africa during which the nuclear deal is expected to figure prominently.

With reporting by Reuters and AFP

Source: https://www.rferl.org/a/us-iran-nuclear -disagreement/31772671.html

Copyright (c) 2022. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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