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US: Iran Protests, Iranian Support of Russia Priorities Ahead of Nuclear Deal

FILE - In this photo released by the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, technicians work at the Arak heavy water reactor's secondary circuit, as officials and media visit the site, near Arak, Iran, Dec. 23, 2019.

Negotiations to return to the international agreement that limited Iran's nuclear program is not a current priority for the United States, the U.S. State Department said Wednesday.

Spokesman Ned Price told reporters the 2015 nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, "hasn't been on the agenda for some months now."

The United States left the agreement in 2018 under then-President Donald Trump, who argued that it was too favorable to Iran and reimposed sanctions.

Iran responded by stepping away from its commitments under the deal, which was meant to address concerns that it was working to develop nuclear weapons. Iran denied those allegations, and after the U.S. withdrawal it boosted its stockpiles of enriched uranium, employed more advanced centrifuges and enriched uranium to higher levels.

Price said Wednesday that after Iran reneged on terms to reenter the agreement late last year, the United States is now focused on "doing everything we can to support the universal rights of the people of Iran" amid protests that have been going on since September, and on Iran's role in supporting Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Price called Iran "one of the most complex challenges we face," citing the country's nuclear program as well as its "malign activities throughout the Middle East."

"And now what it is doing to its own people — the repression, the violence that it's perpetrating against the brave Iranians who are taking to the streets; and the military support, the security assistance that it's providing to Russia — all of these are compounded and represent what is undeniably one of the most difficult challenges we face," Price said.