Iran Showed Some Seriousness in Vienna Talks, but Not Enough, U.S. Official Says

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A police officer stands guard near the entrance of the Grand Hotel in Vienna, this week.
A police officer stands guard near the entrance of the Grand Hotel in Vienna, this week. Credit: JOE KLAMAR / AFP

The United States has seen some signs of Iranian seriousness of purpose this week during indirect talks in Vienna over the nuclear deal that the U.S. withdrew from, but not enough and the main question mark is over Tehran's repeated demand that Washington lift all sanctions imposed since 2017, a senior U.S. official said on Friday.

"If Iran sticks to the position that every sanction that has been imposed since 2017 has to be lifted or there will be no deal, then we are heading towards an impasse," the senior State Department official told reporters in a telephonic briefing.

Earlier, the UN atomic watchdog flagged a new breach by Iran of its nuclear deal with major powers on the day those powers met to revive the agreement, a report by the agency seen by Reuters showed, likely raising tensions with Western powers.

The International Atomic Energy Agency avoids saying Iran has breached the deal. At the same time, it generally only issues such ad hoc reports to member states in the event of a breach. Two diplomats told Reuters what the report described amounted to a fresh breach.

The breach has to do with what counts officially towards Iran's stockpile of enriched uranium, a highly sensitive issue since that stockpile could be enriched further to weapons-grade material suitable for nuclear bombs if Iran chose to do so. It denies seeking such weapons and says its aims are entirely peaceful.

After the deal was reached in 2015 the parties to it defined what should count towards the stockpile, and excluded items such as scrap fuel plates with uranium enriched to near 20 percent fissile purity, which were deemed "unrecoverable." Friday's report, however, said Iran had recovered some of that material.

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