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US ‘Seriously Reviewing’ Iran's Comments on Latest Text of Nuclear Deal

FILE - A Ghadr-H missle, center, a solid-fuel surface-to-surface Sejjil missile and a portrait of the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei are on display at Baharestan Square in Tehran, Iran, Sept. 24, 2017.
FILE - A Ghadr-H missle, center, a solid-fuel surface-to-surface Sejjil missile and a portrait of the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei are on display at Baharestan Square in Tehran, Iran, Sept. 24, 2017.

The United States said it is “seriously reviewing” Iran's latest response to a European Union proposal aimed at reviving a 2015 nuclear deal.

The U.S. is encouraged that Iran appears to have dropped some of its “non-starter demands,” such as removing the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) from the U.S. Foreign Terrorist Organizations list.

“That's part of the reason why a deal is closer now than it was two weeks ago. But the outcome of these ongoing discussions still remains uncertain as gaps do remain,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said during a Monday briefing.

“We will respond to Iran's response as soon as our internal consultations are completed, and as soon as our consultations with our close allies are completed,” Price added, explaining that “the notion that we have delayed this negotiation in any way is just not true.”

Iran has accused the United States of delays in the indirect negotiations to return to the agreement that limited Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief, the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA.)

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani cited what he called U.S. “procrastination” in responding to Iran’s comments on a proposed text drafted by the EU.

Kanani also said a prisoner exchange with the U.S. would not be linked to the nuclear talks.

Washington has been seeking the release of several Iranian Americans who officials said were wrongfully detained by Tehran, including Emad Sharghi, who has been in prison on spying charges; father and son Baquer and Siamak Namazi; and Morad Tahbaz.

Iran has sought the release of a number of Iranians jailed in the U.S. — most were in prison for violating U.S. sanctions against Iran.

“We are in a position to convey those clear and unequivocal messages [the priority that the U.S. attaches to the safe return of the Iranian Americans] regularly, and it is not dependent on negotiations regarding the JCPOA,” Price said during Monday’s briefing.

The U.S. and the EU have been studying the Iranian response since last week. The EU’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, told a news conference in Spain on August 22 that further talks on reviving the deal could be held this week.

Also on Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid told French President Emmanuel Macron in a phone conversation that Israel objected to a revived Iran nuclear deal and would not be bound by it should one be reached.

Lapid had sent a message to President Joe Biden that the EU proposal being discussed with Iran goes beyond the 2015 nuclear deal and is not in line with the Biden administration’s own red lines, Axios reported, citing a senior Israeli official who briefed reporters.

Israeli national security adviser Eyal Hulata is traveling to Washington this week for talks with the U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan and senior State Department officials.

The United States withdrew from the JCPOA in 2018 when then-President Donald Trump said the deal was too favorable to Iran.

Iran responded to the withdrawal and the imposition of new sanctions by rolling back its commitments that were required under the agreement, including exceeding limits on the amount of enriched uranium it could stockpile and installing more advanced centrifuges at nuclear sites.

A White House statement said Biden had a call Sunday with Macron, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in which the leaders “discussed ongoing negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program, the need to strengthen support for partners in the Middle East region, and joint efforts to deter and constrain Iran’s destabilizing regional activities.”

Chris Hannas contributed to this report. Some information for this story came from Agence France-Presse and Reuters.