Iran Warns U.S. Time’s Short as Nuclear Talks Face Crisis
(Bloomberg) -- Iran warned the U.S. that time’s running out on its troubled bid to return to the 2015 nuclear deal, as an attack on a major Iranian atomic facility and Tehran’s subsequent vow to enrich uranium nearer to weapons grade risk plunging multilateral talks into crisis.
In a tweet, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the disruption on Sunday at Iran’s largest uranium enrichment facility in Natanz, which Iranian officials blamed on Israel, had “unleashed a dangerous spiral.”
Addressing the Biden administration, Zarif said that there was “not much time” and “no alternative” for Washington other than to return to the multiparty accord and remove U.S. sanctions on Iran.
The warning from the Islamic Republic’s top diplomat came ahead of talks in Vienna on Thursday to be attended by Iran, the U.S., three European nations, China and Russia.
The negotiators are trying to restore the beleaguered landmark agreement and map out a path for both Washington and Tehran, which escalated its enrichment work in response to sanctions imposed by the Trump administration, to return to full compliance.
Those efforts have been plunged into crisis since Sunday when the unclaimed strike at Natanz prompted Iran to double down on its atomic activity and start purifying uranium to 60%.
China, which has repeatedly called on the U.S. to rejoin the deal, strongly criticized the attack, which Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said had left matters at a “critical juncture.”
France, Germany and the U.K. condemned Iran’s enrichment escalation in a joint statement, arguing it brought the Islamic Republic closer to a nuclear weapon.
Iran has long insisted it’s not seeking a bomb, and officials said the step announced this week would produce enriched uranium for radiopharmaceuticals.
In a statement to mark the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei echoed Zarif, urging Iranian officials to ensure talks in Vienna aren’t protracted.
But he avoided addressing events at Natanz directly, signaling that President Hassan Rouhani’s diplomats should press on with the negotiations.
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