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Middle East World

Iran official upbeat over nuclear talks, top delegate cautious

file photo: an iranian flag flutters in front of the iaea headquarters in vienna
An Iranian flag flutters in front of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) headquarters in Vienna, Austria

Iranian government spokesman Ali Rabiei said on Tuesday he was optimistic over Tehran reaching an agreement soon at talks with world powers to revive a 2015 nuclear deal, although Iran’s top negotiator cautioned that serious issues remained.

Iran and global powers have held several rounds of negotiations since April in Vienna, working on steps that Tehran and Washington must take on sanctions and nuclear activities to return to full compliance with the nuclear pact.

“General agreements have been reached on major disputes. On the lifting of sanctions, the remaining cases are very minor, and given the negotiation process, we are optimistic about resolving the remaining minor and practical cases,” Rabiei told a news confrence streamed on a state-run website.

Iran’s top negotiator, Abbas Araqchi struck a more cautious stance in comments to state TV.

“There are still serious and important issues that need to be resolved,” he said. “Today we will start the negotiations again and we hope that during the few days of talks, God willing, we will be able to reach the final solutions.”

On his way to the talks, U.S. Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley said on Twitter: “The latest round of talks was constructive and saw meaningful progress. But much work still needs to be done.”

Washington withdrew from the deal in 2018, prompting Iran to steadily overstep the accord’s limits on its nuclear programme designed to make it harder to develop an atomic bomb – an ambition Tehran denies.

Last week, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said sanctions on oil, shipping, petrochemicals, insurance and the central bank had been dealt with in the talks, though European diplomats said success was not guaranteed and very difficult issues remained.

U.S. sanctions are likely to be a major issue in campaigning for Iran’s presidential election on June 18.

State TV reported on Tuesday that Iran’s election watchdog had approved the candidacy of hardline judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi in the election. Hardliners say Washington cannot be trusted to respect any nuclear accord.

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