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European Mediators Aim To Get The U.S. And Iran To Re-Enter The 2015 Nuclear Deal


There is a new attempt to bring the U.S. and Iran back to the 2015 nuclear deal - the one the Trump administration left. Indirect talks are set to begin in Vienna next Tuesday. The goal is to get both Iran and the U.S. back into compliance, as NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: The Biden administration wanted to talk directly with Iran about returning to a deal that offered sanctions relief in exchange for caps on Iran's nuclear program. Iran balked, accusing the U.S. of trying to renegotiate the deal. So instead, the plan is for other countries that signed the deal - the U.K., France, Germany, Russia and China - to meet with U.S. and Iranian diplomats separately. White House spokesperson Jen Psaki says the Europeans will lead working groups to come up with a plan.


JEN PSAKI: This is a welcome and potentially constructive early step, even if the diplomatic road ahead may be long.

KELEMEN: Neither side wants to be seen as making concessions. But reviving the deal would require the U.S. to ease up on sanctions, letting Iran do more business with the world and for Iran to scale back its nuclear program again. Kelsey Davenport of the Washington-based Arms Control Association says there are technical and political challenges ahead.

KELSEY DAVENPORT: Iran can escalate its nuclear activities far more quickly than the United States could rebuild a campaign to sanction and isolate Iran. So restoring the deal is the best option to head off a nuclear crisis and pave the way for further talks.

KELEMEN: President Trump pulled out of the agreement in 2018. Critics of the deal note that it did not address Iran's missile program and support for militants in the Middle East and that parts of it phase out in a few years. Biden administration officials say they want to negotiate a longer-lasting deal that does cover other concerns. Next week's indirect talks are just a start. Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington.

(SOUNDBITE OF ODDISEE'S "WANT SOMETHING DONE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Michele Kelemen has been with NPR for two decades, starting as NPR's Moscow bureau chief and now covering the State Department and Washington's diplomatic corps. Her reports can be heard on all NPR News programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered.