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US Republican lawmakers say they won’t back Iran nuclear deal

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WASHINGTON: Forty-nine of the 50 Republicans in the US Senate have announced they will not back a new nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, underscoring their party’s opposition to attempts to revive a 2015 accord amid fears multilateral nuclear talks might collapse.

But Iran on Monday said, resolving remaining issues in Vienna depends on US’s will. Iranian Foreign minister said in a phone talk with his Omani counterpart on Monday that resolving the remaining issues in nuclear talks with the world powers depends on the American side’s will, as well as refraining from wasting time.

In a statement on Monday, the Republican senators pledged to do everything in their power to reverse an agreement that does not “completely block” Iran’s ability to develop a nuclear weapon, constrain its ballistic missile programme and “confront Iran’s support for terrorism”.

The US has been indirectly negotiating with Iran in Vienna for months to revive the 2015 nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which saw Iran scale back its nuclear programme in exchange for a lifting of sanctions against its economy.

Former President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the deal in 2018 and Washington has been enforcing a “maximum pressure” campaign of sanctions against Tehran. In response, Iran has ramped up its nuclear programme, including uranium enrichment.

Efforts to clinch a new deal were left in limbo after a last-minute demand by Russia – now at odds with the West over its invasion of Ukraine – forced the world powers involved in negotiations to pause talks for an undetermined time despite having a largely completed text.

US lawmaker Rand Paul was the only Senate Republican who did not sign Monday’s statement. In an emailed statement, he said, “Condemning a deal that is not yet formulated is akin to condemning diplomacy itself, not a very thoughtful position.”

No congressional Republicans supported the 2015 nuclear agreement between Tehran and the so-called “P5+1” countries, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council the US, UK, Russia, China, and France – plus Germany. A handful of Democrats also objected.

US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said during the weekend that Biden administration officials believe an agreement is near and “we would like all of the parties – including Russia, which has indicated it’s got some concerns – to bring this to close.”

Tensions between Washington and Tehran increased after Iran launched missiles that landed at the US consulate in the Kurdish city of Erbil in northern Iraq.

“We are very concerned about what Iran is doing, but imagine these Iranians with a nuclear weapon,” Sherman said on Fox News.

“We need to get that off the table so we can address their malign behaviour in the Middle East, and we will do all of the above, but first we’ve got to get this deal. And it is not yet closed.”

Meanwhile, Iranian Foreign Minister of the Sultanate of Oman Badr bin Hamad Albusaidi in his phone talk with Hossein Amirabdollahian exchanged views on the latest status of bilateral ties, regional and international developments, and Iran’s Vienna nuclear talks with the world powers to lift the sanctions.

Amirabdollahian said that the Vienna talks have not ended, but in collaboration with the EU coordinator, a short halt has occurred in the course of the negotiations, and Iran’s top negotiator is seriously pursuing his efforts aimed at reaching a good, sustainable, and strong agreement.

“Resolving the remaining issues, which are among our redlines, depend on the will of the American side and their refraining from wasting time,” he reiterated.

Amirabdollahian further stressed that the Islamic Republic of Iran is serious in its efforts to reach a good, reliable, and strong agreement.

Result of bilateral agreement to be finalized, implemented soon.

The Omani foreign minister, for his part, in the phone talk voiced his satisfaction over the excellent level of Tehran-Muscat ties, elaborated on some issues of mutual interest, and appreciated Iran’s logical stance on regional issues.

“The Sultanate of Oman has always believed in negotiation’s as the best way to resolve the disputed issues, paving the path of peace and friendship, and I am sure the result of our bilateral agreements will soon be finalized and implemented,” said Albusaidi.

The Omani foreign minister, meanwhile, focused on Vienna negotiations, and said he is very optimistic about reaching a final agreement, which will be to the benefit of not only every side involved in the negotiations, but also the region and the world.

The two foreign ministers also agreed in the phone talk on the need to continue Tehran-Muscat comprehensive consultations.

The 2015 Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act gives Congress the right to review an agreement, but lawmakers are unlikely to be able to kill a deal outright after failing to do so in 2015 when Republicans controlled Congress.

Democrats now hold slim majorities in both the House of Representatives and Senate and are unlikely to turn against Biden in sufficient numbers to stop a major initiative like an Iran deal.

Nevertheless, the Republican opposition ensures Congress cannot adopt any nuclear agreement with Iran as a permanent treaty, which requires a two-thirds vote in favour, rendering it vulnerable to abandonment by a future Republican president.

A spokesperson for Iran’s foreign ministry said on Monday that Washington needs to decide to wrap up a deal.

US Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland told the Senate last week that Russia was trying to “up the ante” by tying the Iran negotiations to Moscow’s demands in Ukraine but the US was rejecting that. “We are not playing ‘Let’s make a deal’, Nuland said at a Senate hearing.

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