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‘General agreements reached’ on Iran nuclear deal, Tehran says as 5th round of talks with US to revive accord begin

Iranian government spokesman Ali Rabiei has said he is “optimistic” about the progress of indirect negotiations between Tehran and Washington to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal ahead of a fifth round of talks in Vienna.

Efforts at securing the US and Iran’s full return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) agreement have been mediated by the treaty’s other signatories for several weeks in the Austrian capital.

“General agreements have been reached on major disputes,” Rabei told a news conference on Tuesday.

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.

Iran's top negotiator at the talks, Abbas Araqchi, was more guarded in his comments to state media, saying “serious and important issues” still needed to be addressed.

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There was also a positive outlook on the talks on Tuesday from Mikhail Ulyanov, the Russian negotiator and ambassador to the UN’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

In a tweet, he said the fifth round of negotiations “can be final,” but said to be on the safe side he “would prefer to say: let’s see.”

His US counterpart, Robert Malley, said in a tweet on Monday night that the previous round of talks was “constructive” but that “much work still needs to be done” to clinch an agreement.

US President Joe Biden has expressed willingness for America to return to the JCPOA, which relieves Iran from sanctions in return for restrictions stopping it from developing nuclear weapons – an aim Tehran denies. A revival of the JCPOA would reverse the 2018 decision by Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump to pull the US out of the agreement and instead impose fresh sanctions on Iran.

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After the US withdrawal, Iran began to embark on a number of breaches of the terms of the agreement, including limits on the purity of uranium it may produce and how much it may stockpile.

On Monday, Iran’s nuclear authority said it will continue to enrich uranium at up to 60% purity, a development Tehran announced last month, which is far beyond the 3.67% level set out under the JCPOA. Previously, Iran’s breaches of uranium purity limits – which are required by its parliament – have proved a major roadblock for the Biden administration to lift sanctions.

In a sign of possible progress for the JCPOA talks, the IAEA announced on Monday that Iran had agreed to extend a monitoring deal allowing the UN watchdog to inspect its nuclear sites. A temporary agreement had been in place after the Iranian parliament voted to ban UN inspectors from its nuclear facilities in protest against the lack of sanctions relief from the European parties to the JCPOA.

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