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Biden, Europeans tackle Iran nuclear program in Rome talks

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Biden, Europeans tackle Iran nuclear program in Rome talks

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As Iran’s nuclear program makes troubling progress, President Joe Biden is expected to meet with European allies on Saturday to discuss the strategy as they push for a diplomatic resolution – and to foresee the possibility of Iran refusing to return to the negotiating table.

The meeting with the leaders of Germany, France and Britain – known as E3 – comes at a pivotal moment, as Iran continues to enrich uranium to levels close to military grade. Biden is trying to revive the 2015 nuclear deal and bring Iran back into line with the pact that would have kept the Islamic republic at least a year away from the possibility of deploying a nuclear weapon.

US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said the meeting with Germany’s Angela Merkel, Frenchman Emmanuel Macron and Britain’s Boris Johnson would feature the leaders “all singing the same song on this issue.”

He called it a “study in contrast to the previous administration since Iran was one of the areas of deepest divergence between the previous administration and the Europeans.”

President Joe Biden arrives for a meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican on Friday, October 29, 2021.
(Associated press)

The UN atomic watchdog said Iran was increasingly violating the agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the 2015 nuclear deal, and the United States indirectly participated in talks aimed at bringing Washington and Tehran back into compliance. These Vienna talks have been suspended since June, when Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi took power.

Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China and the European Union are still part of the deal.

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Saturday’s meeting follows days after Ali Bagheri, Iran’s deputy foreign minister and chief negotiator for the talks, tweeted that Iran had agreed to resume negotiations by the end of November and that ‘A date for the resumption of talks “would be announced within the next week.”

Sullivan said on Thursday that the United States was still trying to determine whether Iran was serious about the negotiations.

“I’m not quite sure yet if the Iranians are ready to resume talks,” he told reporters aboard Air Force One as Biden flew to Rome for the Group of 20 summit. “We have heard positive signals that they are, but I think we have to wait and see when and if they actually come to the negotiating table.”

Sullivan said the group would send “clear messages” to Iran that the negotiating window “is not unlimited.”

“We are of course retaining all other options to be able to deal with this program if necessary,” he said.

Saturday’s meeting comes days after US officials accused Iran of a drone attack on a remote US outpost in Syria. Officials said Monday that the United States believed Iran had funded and encouraged the attack, but the drones had not been launched from Iran.

No deaths or injuries were reported as a result of the attack.

In retaliation, the US Treasury Department on Monday announced new sanctions against two senior Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps officials and two affiliates for supplying deadly drones and related materiel to insurgent groups in Iraq, Lebanon, in Yemen and Ethiopia.

The meeting comes on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Rome, the first stop on Biden’s five-day overseas trip that will also lead him to a United Nations climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland.

U.S. officials said Biden was also due to attend a plenary session with other world leaders on Saturday on the COVID-19 pandemic and economic recovery.

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Biden was expected to advance his goal of establishing a global minimum corporate tax of 15%, even as his domestic efforts to raise the corporate rate to that figure were stalled in Washington.

He was also due to discuss measures to alleviate the global energy supply crisis which has driven up prices, jeopardizing the global economic recovery.

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