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Iran reports progress in nuclear talks, but 'not enough'

Iran has said it will break from the nuclear agreement [Getty]

Date of publication: 28 June, 2019

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Iran has said that nuclear talks with world powers are making progress but not enough to make the country change tack.

Iran has reported progress in nuclear talks in Vienna on Friday with world powers but said it was "still not enough" to end tensions in the Gulf.

Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi held talks with European, Russian and Chinese officials and noted that there had been "one step forward" but it is "still not meeting Iran's expectations".

Tehran is facing heavy sanctions from the US which walked out of a nuclear accord with Tehran last year.

Iran in turn is on the verge of exceeding a limit on stockpiles of nuclear material foreseen under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), despite efforts by world powers to keep Tehran tied to the agreement.

Under the deal signed by Tehran and world powers in 2015, Iran pledged to reduce its nuclear capacities for several years and let inspectors into the country. In return for monitoring Iran was granted some sanctions relief.

Iran on Thursday vowed to exceed the agreed 300-kilogramme (660-pound) reserve of enriched uranium, but an Iranian official said the latest figures showed the stockpile was still 2.8kg under the ceiling.

Araghchi said on Friday: "The decision to reduce our commitments has already been made in Iran and we continue on that process unless our expectations are met."

"I don't think that the progress we made today would be considered enough to stop our process but the decision is not mine," he added.

Another meeting between Iran and other members of the JCPOA agreement would be convened at ministerial level "very soon", he added.

Iran also said it would start enriching uranium above the agreed purification level of 3.67 percent from 7 July. Weapons-grade levels are about 90 percent.

An Iranian official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP on Thursday that even if both limits are surpassed, this could be reversed "within half an hour" if an agreement was made on bossting Iran's oil exports despite US sanctions.

Helga Schmid, the deputy to the EU's foreign policy chief, also took part in Friday's meeting and said in a tweet there had been "constructive discussions".

She said the mechanism set up to facilitate trade with Iran and avoid US sanctions, INSTEX, was "now operational, first transactions being processed and more EU Members States to join".

Araghchi welcomed this but stressed the importance allowing Iran to export oil again, saying that "for INSTEX to be useful for Iran, Europeans need to buy oil from Iran or to consider credit lines for this mechanism".

A Chinese foreign ministry official also said his country would continue to import Iranian oil in defiance of US attempts to stop them entirely.

"We do not accept this so-called zero policy of the United States," said Fu Cong, director general of the Chinese foreign ministry's department of arms control.

Fu's statement came a day before US President Donald Trump - a vehement opponent of the JCPOA - is set to hold talks with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping on the sidelines of a G20 summit in Japan.

Speaking in Osaka Friday ahead of the summit, Trump struck an emollient tone on resolving the Iran crisis, saying: "They can take their time. There is absolutely no time pressure."

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