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Iran says nuclear talks not at impasse, but difficult issues remain

VIENNA, AUSTRIA - APRIL 27: In this handout image provide by EU Delegation Vienna, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi (R) speaks with other participants at the JCPOA Iran nuclear talks on April 27, 2021 in Vienna, Austria. Representatives from the United States, Iran, the European Union and other participants from the original Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) are meeting both directly and indirectly over possibly reviving the plan. The JCPOA was the European-led initiative by which Iran agreed not to pursue a nuclear weapon in exchange for concessions, though the United States, under the administration of former U.S. President Donald Trump, abandoned the deal and intensified sanctions against Iran. (Photo by EU DELEGATION VIENNA via Getty Images)
Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi (R) speaks with other participants at the JCPOA Iran nuclear talks on April 27, 2021 in Vienna, Austria [EU DELEGATION VIENNA via Getty Images]

Iran believes that barriers to the revival of its 2015 nuclear accord with world powers are complicated but not insurmountable, a spokesman said on Tuesday, denying that negotiations had stalled, Reuters reported.

The Islamic Republic and six powers have been negotiating in Vienna since April to work out steps for Tehran and Washington to take, respectively, on nuclear activities and sanctions, for the pact to resume.

Two Western diplomats and an Iranian official said the talks would likely pause on Thursday for consultations in respective capitals, though it remained unclear if they would resume before Iran's June 18 presidential election, in which a prominent hardliner is tipped to replace the pragmatist incumbent.

READ: Iran says talks with Saudi Arabia ongoing

"There is no impasse in the Vienna talks," Iranian government spokesman Ali Rabiei told a news conference streamed live by a state-run website.

"Negotiations have reached a stage where a few key issues need to be decided, and these issues require the proper attention, perfectionism and time."

Since former US President Donald Trump pulled out of the deal three years ago and reimposed sanctions on Iran, Tehran has embarked on counter-measures, including rebuilding stockpiles of enriched uranium, a potential pathway to nuclear bombs.

"It is natural that due to the complexities created by the Trump administration's numerous sanctions and Iran's measures…, many details need to be considered, but none of these obstacles are insurmountable," Rabiei added.

On Monday, Iran's nuclear negotiator expressed doubt that the current round of talks would be the final one.

US President Joe Biden has said Washington will return to the pact if Tehran first resumes compliance with its strict limits on uranium enrichment.

READ: Official data says Iran oil arrives in US after ship seized 

Separately, France, one of the signatories to the deal, voiced concern after a report from the UN nuclear watchdog which showed on Monday that Iran had failed to explain traces of uranium found at several undeclared sites.

French Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Agnes von der Muhll, asked whether Paris wanted to resurrect a resolution criticising Iran at the UN nuclear watchdog agency (IAEA) for not clarifying the uranium issue, said: "We strongly call on Iran to provide such responses as quickly as possible."

Three months ago Britain, France and Germany scrapped a US-backed plan for the IAEA's 35-nation Board of Governors to criticise Iran for failing to fully explain the origin of the particles. The three backed off when IAEA chief Rafael Grossi announced fresh talks with Iran.

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