Iran to re-start nuclear talks with US in December, US official says

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran agreed on Sunday to resume nuclear talks in December, a U.S. official said, as the Trump administration re-imposed punishing new sanctions against Tehran.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini spoke separately by phone about possible talks to “resume discussions aimed at resolving the Iran nuclear program peacefully,” said a senior administration official who was not authorized to speak publicly about the conversations and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The official said Zarif was quoted by the state-run IRNA news agency as saying that Iran was willing to return to talks before the end of November.

Zarif confirmed the talks and said a meeting would take place “in the near future,” according to IRNA. Iran had said it was willing to hold talks over the nuclear issue in a letter to the U.S. and the United Nations on Nov. 5.

The U.S. was prepared to negotiate with Iran over its nuclear program, but only once Iran withdraws from its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, the official said.

As part of the new sanctions, the U.S. is attempting to isolate the Islamic Republic. In September, President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of the international agreement and re-imposed the sanctions, which were suspended under the deal. Iran has pushed back against the American approach, and parliament has demanded that it resume its “right” to enrich uranium.

Since leaving the deal, Trump has insisted that Iran not be allowed to enrich uranium.

Under the 2015 deal, Iran agreed to limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for sanctions relief. Uranium enriched to levels of 20 percent is considered an immediate military threat as it can be used to arm a nuclear warhead. The agreement says the nuclear program cannot be expanded except in a few controlled locations.

After Trump pulled out of the deal, Iran joined Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany as a signatory to the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Additional Protocol, which requires more frequent inspections.

For years, the U.S. administration on and off has pressed for stronger inspections, saying they failed to detect Iran’s clandestine nuclear activity. Iran has claimed the U.S. has long prevented such access.

At home, an overwhelmingly powerful majority of Iranians still oppose the nuclear deal. Iranians fear that new U.S. sanctions will further cripple the economy.

Iran’s economy has already suffered since Trump withdrew from the nuclear deal. Iran’s rial has fallen sharply and many thousands of Iranians have left the country.

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