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Nuke deal the best way to cap Iran nuclear activity: Blinken

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JERUSALEM: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said the United States and Israel are committed to ensuring Iran does not acquire a nuclear weapon, as the allies acknowledge differences over negotiations with Tehran.

Blinken said President Joe Biden’s administration believes that “the return to full implementation” of the deal was “the best way to put Iran’s programme back in the box that it was…”

Antony Blinken made the comments on Sunday alongside his Israeli counterpart, Yair Lapid, who said Israel had “disagreements” with the US about a possible deal to revive the 2015 nuclear accord with Tehran.

Israel’s government firmly opposes the terms of the 2015 deal and says re-activating the original deal is insufficient to curb the Iranian threat.

But, Blinken said, “when it comes to the most important element, (Israel and the US) see eye-to-eye. We are both committed, both determined, that Iran will never acquire a nuclear weapon.”

Lapid too stressed that Israel will do anything needed to stop an Iranian nuclear programme. “From our point of view, the Iranian threat is not theoretical. The Iranians want to destroy Israel. They will not succeed.”

Iran has been engaged for months in talks in Vienna to revive the accord with Britain, China, France, Germany, and Russia directly. The United States is taking part indirectly in the negotiations.

The European Union’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said at the weekend that a deal with Iran, known as the Joint Collective Plan of Action, will likely be renewed “in a matter of days.”

The EU’s coordinator for talks, Enrique Mora, met Iran’s Foreign Minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, and its chief negotiator in Tehran on Sunday with an aim to bridge gaps in the talks, state media reported.

“The lack of a US political decision to lift sanctions tied to the economic benefits of the Iranian people is the current obstacle to achieving the final results,” Amir-Abdollahian said during the meeting.

Amir-Abdollahian has also said one of the key outstanding issues is removing the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) from a US terrorist list.

The US special envoy for Iran, Robert Malley, said in Qatar on Sunday that Washington would maintain sanctions on the Guards. “The IRGC will remain sanctioned under US law…,” Malley said.

The 2015 deal gave Iran much-needed sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear programme — something it has always denied seeking.

The deal fell apart in 2018 after US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the accord and reimposed crippling sanctions on Iran, which retaliated by rolling back most of its commitments.

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