Russia Talking to Iran About Interim Nuclear Deal With U.S. Knowledge, Report Says

NBC report says the United States has distanced itself from the talks as Washington does not believe the arrangement is being discussed seriously by the parties

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Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, left, and Russian State Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin in a meeting in Moscow on Thursday.
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, left, and Russian State Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin in a meeting in Moscow on Thursday.Credit: /AP
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Haaretz

Russia has discussed a possible interim agreement for the flailing international nuclear deal with Iran in past weeks, which would involve restricting Tehran's nuclear program in exchange for easing some sanctions, NBC reported on Saturday. The United States is aware of these efforts.

According to the report, which cites a number of official U.S. sources, the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden veered the United States away from these attempts to reach a deal, which Iran has thus far rejected. It quotes one U.S. official as saying “Though we cannot speak for any discussions that may have taken place between Russia and Iran, at this stage we are certain that no such interim arrangement is being seriously discussed.” 

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Tehran is uninterested in an interim deal, the Islamic Republic's mission to the United Nations said Friday, and the office declined to elaborate further on the agreement's particulars. The Russian government had also not responded to requests for comment.

Sources familiar with the deal say that according to one of its drafts, Iran would need to limit its uranium enrichment to 60 percent, and get rid of its current stockpile of enriched uranium, among other restrictions.

According to intelligence shared by a number of countries, including Israel, the amount of uranium Iran has already enriched to 20-percent and 60-percent purity bring Tehran just a number of weeks away from having enough uranium to rapidly enrich it to 90 percent and build a bomb.

For its part of the deal, Iran would receive access to billions of dollars' worth of its gas profits that are currently frozen in foreign banks.

The attempts at the interim deal come against the backdrop of efforts to resuscitate the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, from which the United States withdrew in 2018 during the administration of President Donald Trump. Although talks to salvage the deal resumed in Vienna last year, including indirect talks between Iran and the United States, there have been few advances.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Thursday that talks over Iran's nuclear program have reached an "urgent" point and warned it would be necessary to take a different course with Tehran if no progress is made.

"There is real urgency, and it's really now a matter of weeks, where we determine whether we can return to mutual compliance with the agreement," Blinken told a joint news conference with his German counterpart, referring to a 2015 nuclear deal.

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