Tehran has submitted to the EU its written response on a final version of the roadmap for lifting sanctions on Iran in exchange for limiting its nuclear activities. EU foreign policy chief Josef Borrell is expected to reply by Thursday.
Ahead of a Monday midnight deadline to respond to the EU roadmap, Iranian foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said the US needed to be flexible on three outstanding issues. If they “are resolved, we can reach an agreement. But failure to revive the pact would not be the end of the world. Like Washington, we have our own plan B if the talks fail.”
US state department spokesman Ned Price said Washington would give its response privately to Mr Borrell. He said Iran had made “unacceptable demands” outside the ambit of the nuclear deal, although the US itself has said it will not lift sanctions unrelated to the deal.
Mr Amir-Abdollahian said the US had shown “relative flexibility” on two unnamed issues, while the third issue was still Iran’s requirement of guarantees “for the continuation of the deal”. He said “we do not want to reach a deal that after 40 days, two months or three months fails to materialise on the ground”.
The two issues he did not name are the demand by UN nuclear monitors for an Iranian explanation for the presence of uranium particles at three undeclared sites and Iran’s call for the US to remove its Republican Guards from its terrorism list.
On the third issue there can be no guarantee for the deal beyond the Biden administration as the return of the US to compliance will be mandated by presidential order, which can be reversed by a successor administration rather than by an enduring treaty.
According to Britain-based Amwaj media, President Ebrahim Raisi’s conservative administration is preparing its support base for compromises by claiming that Washington has retreated from demands rejected by Iran. Hardline daily Kayhan has praised Iran’s negotiators for replacing a “weak” agreement with a “new strong agreement”.
Since former US president Donald Trump abandoned the deal in 2018, Iran has retaliated by enriching uranium beyond 6.37 per cent purity to 20 and 60 per cent, and instead of having a stockpile of 300kg of enriched uranium Iran has amassed 3,800kg. Iran has also developed advanced centrifuges for enrichment and reduced UN inspectors’ access to sites.
While Tehran insists its nuclear programme has always been for peaceful purposes, the International Atomic Energy Agency and western powers argue Iran had a nuclear weapons programme until 2003. Iran’s supreme guide Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has rejected the accusation and proclaimed such arms are forbidden by Islam. Scientists argue that Iran has to purify uranium to 90 per cent for bombs, while weaponisation and building delivery systems could take many months.