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US: Iran nuclear talks to resume over the weekend

(FILES) -- File picture dated April 3, 2007 shows an Iranian flag outside the building housing the reactor of the Bushehr nuclear power plant in the southern Iranian port town of Bushehr, 1200 Kms south of Tehran. Iran's nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi announced on February 9, 2010 that Tehran has started to produce 20 percent enriched uranium at its Natanz facility, the ISNA news agency reported. He also said the much-delayed Russian-built nuclear power plant will be commissioned in spring 2010. The completion of the plant has been delayed repeatedly amid Western concerns that Iran's nuclear programme masks building of atomic weapons, a charge denied by Tehran. AFP PHOTO/BEHROUZ MEHRI (Photo by Behrouz MEHRI / AFP FILES / AFP) (Photo by BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP FILES/AFP via Getty Images)
File picture dated April 3, 2007 shows an Iranian flag outside the building housing the reactor of the Bushehr nuclear power plant in the southern Iranian port town of Bushehr, 1200 Kms south of Tehran [BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP FILES/AFP via Getty Images]

Negotiations between Iran and the world powers on how to revive the 2015 nuclear accord will resume this weekend, Reuters reported US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman as saying on Wednesday, adding that Iran's June 18 presidential election was a complicating factor.

"I know that the negotiation will start again over this coming weekend," Sherman said during a virtual event organized by the German Marshall Fund think tank.

"I think there's been a lot of progress made, but, out of my own experience, until the last detail is nailed down, and I mean nailed down, we will not know if we have an agreement," Sherman, one of the key US negotiators for the original deal, said.

The talks seek to revive US and Iranian compliance with a landmark pact under which Iran agreed to curbs on its nuclear program to make it harder to obtain fissile material for a bomb in return for the easing of US, European Union and UN sanctions.

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There have been five rounds of indirect US-Iranian talks since April and the next set are expected to begin in Vienna on Saturday, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters and Iranian state media quoted Iran's lead negotiator as saying.

However, a host of obstacles remain, suggesting a return to compliance with the accord is still a way off, four diplomats, two Iranian officials and two analysts say.

Another factor is the June 18 elections to replace President Hassan Rouhani, a pragmatist who promoted the original deal and who widely expected to be followed by a hard-line successor.

"This is complicated, of course, by the Iranian presidential election, which is happening in just a few days," Sherman said, without elaborating.

That said, the election are expected to have little impact on Iran's foreign and nuclear policies, which are decided by the country's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and all seven candidates running for president have supported the talks.

Then-US President Donald Trump abandoned the deal in 2018, saying it was too soft on Iran, and reimposed sanctions. Iran responded by violating its nuclear limits about a year later.

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