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US willing to sit down for talks with Iran, other nations on nuclear deal

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Washington, Feb 19: The Biden administration has said it is willing to sit down for talks with Iran and world powers to discuss a diplomatic way forward on Tehran''s atomic programme, in the first major step aimed at reviving the 2015 nuclear deal that was close to falling apart after the previous Trump regime withdrew from it.

Joe Biden

Former president Donald Trump pulled the US out of the deal in 2018.

Under the deal, Iran had agreed to greatly limit its nuclear programme through 2025. However, Trump argued that this gave the Iranians a pathway to nuclear weapons.

President Joe Biden and his advisors have said that they will rejoin the deal if Iran returns to compliance with the agreement.

"The United States would accept an invitation from the European Union High Representative to attend a meeting of the P5+1 and Iran to discuss a diplomatic way forward on Iran's nuclear programme," State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said on Thursday.

P5+1 include the five permanent members of the Security Council -- namely China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States-- plus Germany, who during the Obama administration had entered into an agreement with Iran.

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The announcement on Iran came after Secretary of State Antony Blinken met virtually with his counterparts from the three European co-signers (E3) of the deal.

A senior administration official told reporters that President Biden is committed to resuming an American multilateral diplomatic role in trying to resolve the issues that they have with Iran.

The US wants "to see whether we could get to a situation where Iran is back in compliance with the JCPOA and the US is back in compliance with the JCPOA, and use that as a platform to then negotiate a longer, stronger deal, and also to deal with some of the regional security concerns that the US and its partners in the region have," the official said.

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), known commonly as the Iran nuclear deal or Iran deal, is an agreement on the Iranian nuclear programme reached in Vienna on July 14, 2015, between Iran and the P5+1 together with the European Union.

In a joint statement, the US and E3 expressed their shared fundamental security interest in upholding the nuclear non-proliferation regime and ensuring that Iran can never develop a nuclear weapon.

In this context, the conclusion of the JCPOA was a key achievement of multilateral diplomacy.

"The E3 welcomed the United States' stated intention to return to diplomacy with Iran as well as the resumption of a confident and in-depth dialogue between the E3 and the United States," the joint statement said.

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    The ministers affirmed strong interest in continuing their consultations and coordination, including with China and Russia, on this key security issue, recognising the role of the High Representative of the European Union as Coordinator of the Joint Commission, it said.

    "It was clear that we're on the same page in saying that we're prepared to come back to talks to get back into compliance if Iran will get back into compliance," the official said.

    Under the 2015 deal, Iran agreed to allow teams from the International Atomic Energy Agency into its nuclear facilities.

    In the wake of that joint statement, EU political director Enrique Mora in a tweet said that he would be ready to convene an informal meeting of the P5+1 and Iran to talk about the way forward in terms of Iran's nuclear programme.

    "The US is ready for that," the official said, adding that the goal of coming together would be to sit down and to start what could be a prolonged path of trying to get back to a situation where both the US and Iran were back into compliance.

    "But that's not going to happen without a meeting, and therefore we'd be prepared to sit down and talk about what are the steps that need to be taken to get back to that point, and then build on that to broaden and strengthen the deal," said the official.

    The 2015 accord is aimed at preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Tehran denies it is seeking such an arsenal.

    Iran has stepped up its nuclear work in violation of the accord after US sanctions were reimposed as part of Trump''s "maximum pressure" policy to weaken the Iranian regime.

    The UN nuclear watchdog said last week that Iran had started producing uranium metal in a new violation of the accord, prompting the European powers to warn that Tehran was "undermining the opportunity for renewed diplomacy".

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