Iran nuclear talks resume in Vienna as Tehran expands enrichment


Negotiators from IranThe United States and the European Union resumed months-long indirect talks over Tehran’s tattered nuclear deal on Thursday, as international inspectors reported that Iran was expanding its uranium enrichment activities.

The resumption of the Vienna talks, which convened abruptly on Wednesday, did not appear to include high-level representatives from all the countries that Iran agreed to in 2015 with world powers.

The talks come as Western officials are increasingly skeptical about the prospect of reviving the deal. The EU’s top diplomat warned that “the space for more major compromises has been exhausted.”

Iran’s chief negotiator, Ali Bagheri Khani, met with EU mediator Enrique Mora, according to Iranian media reports. As with other negotiations, the United States will not negotiate directly with Iran. Instead, both sides will speak through Mora.

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Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani waves away after talks at the Coburg Palace, the site of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), in Vienna on August 4, 2022.

Alex Harada/AFP via Getty Images


U.S. Special Representative for Iran Rob Marley was also present, tweeting Wednesday. “Our expectations are under control.”

Mora also met on Thursday with Russian Ambassador Mikhail Ulyanov, who represents Moscow’s interests in the talks. Ulyanov also met Bagheri Kani alone.

“As usual, we had a candid, pragmatic and constructive exchange of views on ways and means to overcome the final outstanding issues,” Ulyanov tweeted.

But as it entered negotiations, Iran offered an extremist stance. Through its state-run Islamic Republic of Iran news agency, Tehran denied it had abandoned efforts to have the United States delist its paramilitary Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist group as a precondition for a deal. This is a major sticking point.

IRNA also quoted the head of Iran’s Civilian Nuclear Energy Agency as saying that surveillance cameras shut by the IAEA will only be reopened if the West abandons efforts to investigate traces of man-made uranium found in previously undisclosed locations in the country.

These positions could lead to the failure of negotiations.

Iranian officials have been trying to make an optimistic assessment of the talks while blaming the United States for the impasse. They may be concerned that a breakdown in talks could send the country’s rial to new lows.

Iran reached a nuclear deal in 2015 with the United States, France, Germany, Britain, Russia and China. The deal saw Iran agree to limit its uranium enrichment activities under the supervision of UN inspectors in exchange for lifting economic sanctions.

Then-President Donald Trump unilaterally pulled the United States out of the deal in 2018, saying he would negotiate a stronger deal, but that didn’t happen. A year later, Iran began violating the terms of the agreement.

As of the last public count by the International Atomic Energy Agency, Iran had a stockpile of about 3,800 kilograms (8,370 pounds) of enriched uranium. Even more worrying for nonproliferation experts, Iran is now enriching uranium to 60 percent purity — a level it has never achieved before. It’s a short technical step away from 90% weapon level.

Those experts warned that Iran has enough 60 percent enriched uranium to be reprocessed into fuel for at least one bomb. However, Iran still needs to design bombs and delivery systems for it, which could be a months-long project.

Iran insists its plans are for peaceful purposes, even as its officials increasingly discuss whether the country has the capability to build a nuclear bomb, if it so chooses – a previously taboo subject there.

Meanwhile, UN inspectors at the International Atomic Energy Agency said on Thursday they had confirmed that Iran had begun injecting uranium gas into two previously unused IR-1 cascades at its Natanz underground facility. These cascades would enrich uranium to 5%.

IAEA inspectors also confirmed that Iran has completed the installation of three advanced IR-6 cascades at the plant, each comprising up to 176 centrifuges. The IAEA said the cascades had not been fed uranium. Iran also told the IAEA that it planned to install six more IR-2M cascades at a new operating unit in Natanz, inspectors said.





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