France's Emmanuel Macron believes Iran nuclear deal 'still possible'

President calls Iranian counterpart Ebrahim Raisi by telephone to discuss revival of 2015 accord

An Iranian official said Tehran had the technical capacity to make a nuclear bomb but it had not decided to do so. Reuters
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French President Emmanuel Macron has told his Iranian counterpart Ebrahim Raisi that reviving the landmark 2015 deal on Tehran's nuclear capabilities was “still possible” but must happen “as soon as possible”.

Mr Macron expressed his disappointment at the absence of progress after the suspension of talks in Vienna and underlined the need for Iran to return to the accord and honour its nuclear commitments, according to a French presidency statement.

The French leader's telephone call with Mr Raisi comes as negotiations between Iran and world powers, including the US, have ground to a temporary halt.

The 2015 deal was aimed to prevent Iran from developing the capability to acquire an atom bomb in exchange for lifting economic sanctions.

But former president Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the US from the accord in 2018 and reimposed sanctions, leading Tehran to begin rolling back on its commitments.

In June, indirect talks between the US and Iran were held in an effort to resume diplomatic efforts in Vienna, but discussions were interrupted after two days without a breakthrough.

The Iranian presidency said Mr Raisi “condemned the unconstructive positions and actions of the United States and European countries” during his two-hour conversation with Mr Macron on Saturday.

Last week, an Iranian official said Tehran had the technical capacity to make a nuclear bomb but clarified that it had not decided to make any.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry said there was “no change” in its nuclear policy.

Mr Macron “reiterated his deep concern” about four French citizens “arbitrarily held” in Iran during his call with Mr Raisi.

They include Benjamin Briere, sentenced to more than eight years in jail for spying, and French-Iranian researcher Fariba Adelkhah, who received a five-year prison term in May 2020 for endangering national security.

The two other detained are trade unionists held since May 11 and accused of threatening Iranian security.

The Iran nuclear deal was hailed as a landmark achievement that would make the world a safer place when it was signed by the Barack Obama administration and world powers in 2015.

The pact seemed close to being revived in March but talks were thrown into disarray, partly over whether the US might remove the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which controls elite armed and intelligence forces that Washington accuses of a global terrorist campaign, from its foreign terrorist organisation list.

President Joe Biden's administration said it has no plan to drop the IRGC from the list.

Updated: July 24, 2022, 2:26 PM