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Russian envoy says Iran nuke talks near conclusion

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VIENNA: A Russian envoy has said, and sources close to the negotiations said a prisoner swap between Iran and the United States is expected soon and the discussion on restoring an agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear programme and ease sanctions are near conclusion,

Mikhail Ulyanov said on Twitter, using the 2015 agreement’s full name, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.” Apparently the negotiations on restoration of #JCPOA are about to cross the finish line,”

In the latest comments on the final phase of 10 months of nuclear negotiations, the talks’ coordinator, Enrique Mora, also tweeted on Tuesday that “key issues need to be fixed” but the end was near.

Several Iranian officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said some minor technical issues were being discussed in Vienna and that a deal was expected before the end of the week, though adding that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”.

Separately, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has told gas exporter countries to avoid any “cruel” sanctions imposed by the United States on Tehran.

“The members of this forum should not recognise those sanctions…(because) in today’s world we see that the sanctions are not going to be effective,” Raisi told a gas exporters conference in Doha.

The US-Iranian deal has been taking shape in Vienna after months of talks between Tehran and major powers to revive the nuclear deal pact, abandoned in 2018 by then-US President Donald Trump, who also reimposed extensive sanctions on Iran.

A draft text of the agreement alluded only vaguely to other issues, diplomats said, adding that what was meant by that was unfreezing billions of dollars in Iranian funds in South Korean banks and the release of Western prisoners held in Iran.

US negotiator Robert Malley has suggested that securing the nuclear pact is unlikely unless Tehran frees US and foreign nationals, including Iranian-American father and son Baquer and Siamak Namazi, Emad Shargi and Morad Tahbaz, that Washington says Tehran is holding hostage.

On Saturday, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said Tehran was ready for an immediate prisoner exchange with the United States.

“Iran has always and repeatedly expressed its readiness to exchange prisoners. Months ago we were ready to do it but the Americans ruined the deal,” a senior Iranian official in Tehran said, without elaborating.

Tehran has sought the release of over a dozen Iranians in the United States, including seven Iranian-American dual nationals, two Iranians with permanent US residency, and four Iranian citizens with no legal status in the United States. Most were jailed for violating US sanctions against Iran.

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