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Iran Balks at Resuming Nuclear Talks with US

FILE - Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

Iran on Sunday balked at holding an informal meeting with the United States and three European powers about reviving the 2015 accord that restrained Tehran’s nuclear development program to keep it from developing nuclear weapons.

Tehran said that before talks are held, the new U.S. administration of President Joe Biden must first lift its unilateral economic sanctions against Iran.

An Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman said that “considering the recent actions and statements” by the U.S., Britain, France and Germany, “Iran does not consider this the time to hold an informal meeting with these countries,” which was proposed by the European Union foreign policy chief. Iran has said its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

A White House spokesperson responded Sunday by expressing “disappointment” with Iran’s response, but said the U.S. is ready to “reengage in meaningful diplomacy to achieve a mutual return to compliance with JCPOA commitments,” referring to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or the Iran nuclear deal.

Washington will consult the other four permanent members of the United Nations Security Council – Britain, China, France and Russia – plus Germany on the best way forward, the spokesperson said.

Former U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the deal, but Biden during his presidential campaign against Trump and since he took office has said he wants to rejoin the pact that includes Russia and China. The U.S. has also opened talks with Iran over the fate of at least five American hostages being held by Tehran.

At the same time, Biden has pressured Iran militarily, ordering airstrikes last week on buildings in Syria that the Defense Department says were used by Iranian-backed militias. The U.S. said the rocket attacks were in retaliation for missile attacks on U.S. targets in neighboring Iraq.

The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Friday the attacks in Syria killed at least 22 militia fighters, although the Pentagon did not confirm the figure.