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Iran's FM asks Europe to coordinate U.S. return to nuclear deal

Iran's foreign minister on Monday asked the European Union to coordinate a synchronized return of both Washington and Tehran into a nuclear deal, after a diplomatic standoff on who will act first.

U.S. President Joe Biden has voiced support for returning to the accord, from which Donald Trump exited, but has insisted that Tehran first resume full compliance by reversing measures it took to protest the sweeping sanctions imposed by his predecessor.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who has previously demanded an end to sanctions before Iran acts, offered a way forward during an interview on CNN.

"You know clearly there can be a mechanism to basically either synchronize it, or coordinate what can be done," he said.

Zarif said that EU Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell should play a role in his position of coordinator of the 2015 agreement – which also included Britain, France and Germany as well as Russia and China.

Borrell can "sort of choreograph the actions that are needed to be taken by the United States and the actions that are needed to be taken by Iran," Zarif said.

"The United States needs to come back into compliance and Iran will be ready immediately to respond. The timing is not the issue," he said in the interview, adding that Iran could return to its previous commitments "in less than a day."

"Some may take a few days or weeks, but it won't take any longer that it would take the United States to implement executive orders that are necessary to put back Iran's oil, banking, transportation and other areas that Trump violated, back into operation," he said.

Trump walked out of the deal negotiated under former president Barack Obama, vowing instead to strangle Iran's economy and reduce its clout around the region.

Analysts said Zarif's stance might lay the ground for talks on reviving the deal despite Iran's prior insistence that the United States lift sanctions first.

"It is entirely unsurprising to me that we are hearing, amid a largely uncompromising position from the Iranians, occasional breadcrumbs that will enable them" to enter into a negotiation, said Suzanne Maloney of the Brookings Institution.

The Biden administration has argued that Trump's actions badly backfired, with Iran both moving away from the nuclear deal and only intensifying its opposition to U.S. interests. And the U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken warns that Iran could now produce enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon within "a few months."

But Blinken again cautioned that a return to the nuclear accord would not be swift.

"If it decides to come back into the agreement – that may take some time, then it's gonna take us some time to assess whether they, in fact, had made good on their obligations," Blinken told NBC News in an interview broadcast Monday.

Iran denies it is seeking a nuclear weapon but rival Israel has charged otherwise and threatened military action.

China: Iranian nuclear issue at a crucial juncture

The Chinese Foreign Ministry on Tuesday said that the Iran nuclear issue stands at a crucial juncture, calling on all parties to accelerate implementation of the consensus reached at last December's foreign ministers' meeting.

"The U.S. side should rejoin the Iran nuclear deal with no preconditions as early as possible and lift all relevant sanctions. On this basis, Iran should resume full compliance," Spokesperson Wang Wenbin urged when asked to comment on Zarif's remarks on the crisis.

China is closely following the situation and stays in close communication with related parties, Wang said, stressing China supports a step-by-step and reciprocal approach.

China will continue to work with the relevant parties and the international community to bring the Iran nuclear deal back on track and promote the political settlement of the Iran nuclear issue, he added.

 
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