Biden administration undeterred by Iran’s refusal to engage in direct nuclear talks

Iran refuses direct talks with US, but Biden hopes for diplomatic path

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden speaks about the economy and the final U.S. jobs report of 2020 at his transition headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware, U.S., December 4, 2020. REUTERS/Leah Millis
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The Biden administration is increasing its attempts to return to the Iran nuclear deal despite Tehran’s refusal to engage in direct talks with Washington.

A senior administration official told The National  that the US would continue pursuing diplomacy to revive the nuclear deal after The Wall Street Journal  reported on Sunday that Iran rejected an EU offer to arrange direct talks with Washington.

“While we are disappointed at Iran’s response, we remain ready to re-engage in meaningful diplomacy to achieve a mutual return to compliance [under the terms of the deal],” said the senior administration official.

He said the administration would continue to consult with the five other signatories to the deal with Iran: the UK, France, Germany, Russia and China.

Former president Donald Trump withdrew from the deal in 2018, prompting Iran to break key parts of the accord.

Most recently, Iran began enriching uranium to 20 per cent purity at its Fordow facility.

President Joe Biden has pledged to re-enter the deal and lift the sanctions regime on Iran if Tehran returned to honour its end of the agreement.

But Iran insists that the US must first offer sanctions relief before it returns to compliance with the accord.

Tension between the two has increased in recent weeks, with Iran-backed militias launching rocket attacks on American troops stationed in Iraq.

Mr Biden retaliated on Thursday with a strike on Iran-backed Iraqi militias operating on the Syrian side of the border with Iraq.

One of the militias, Kataib Hezbollah, denied responsibility for the earlier attacks.