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Tehran urges Washington to change tack, says fixed on removal of illegal sanctions in Vienna talks

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh (Via Fars news agency)

The spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry says Tehran will attach paramount significance to the verifiable removal of Washington’s illegal sanctions during the forthcoming talks with the P4+1 group of countries, which are scheduled to start in the Austrian capital of Vienna later this month.

“Our main focus in Vienna is on the removal of all the sanctions that have been illegally imposed by the United States … What is important for us is how to arrive at a good agreement in Vienna,” Saeed Khatibzadeh said at a weekly press conference in Tehran on Monday.

He stated that it does not really matter that the talks would be picked up precisely where they were left off, but rather, he stressed, the US needs to “change its approach in order to earn our trust.”

In Vienna, our focus is on the effective removal of US sanctions in one go, together with verification by Iran over the sanctions removal and a guarantee by the US that it won’t exit the agreement again, he further clarified.

Top diplomats from Iran and the P4+1 group of countries — Britain, France, Russia, and China plus Germany — are expected to hold the seventh round of discussions in Vienna on November 29.

Former US President Donald Trump left the 2015 nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in May 2018, and reimposed the anti-Iran sanctions that the deal had lifted. He also placed additional sanctions on Iran under other pretexts not related to the nuclear case as part of his “maximum pressure” campaign.

Following a year of strategic patience, Iran resorted to its legal rights under the JCPOA, which grants a party the right to suspend its contractual commitments in case of non-compliance by other signatories and let go of some of the restrictions imposed on its nuclear energy program.

The US administration of Joe Biden has said it is willing to compensate for Trump’s mistake and rejoin the deal, but it has shown an overriding propensity for maintaining the sanctions as a tool of pressure.

Tehran insists that all the sanctions must be first removed in a verifiable manner before the Islamic Republic reverses what it has described as "remedial measures".

IAEA’s Grossi to visit Iran in near future

Khatibzadeh also highlighted that Iran has sent out an invitation to Rafael Mariano Grossi, Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), to visit Tehran, and is waiting for a response.

“Mr. Grossi has had close consultations with both the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) and our colleagues at the Iranian embassy in Vienna,” he said, responding to the IAEA chief’s latest remarks, in which he complained that he had “no contact” with the new Iranian administration.

“An invitation has been extended to him and a date for his trip has been proposed as well,” Khatibzadeh further explained.

The IAEA director general will hold meetings with Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and Head of the AEOI Mohammad Eslami during the expected visit, the spokesman added.

Khatibzadeh also hailed the “very good course” of technical interactions between Iran and the IAEA, stressing that their relations should be allowed to continue normally.

Tehran has repeatedly warned the UN nuclear watchdog against adopting politically-motivated stances through biased reports on Iran’s civilian nuclear program, emphasizing such moves will undermine the constructive process of cooperation between the two sides.

Throughout the years, Iran has repeated ad infinitum that its nuclear program was for purely peaceful purposes and that it had no interest in developing nuclear weapons in spite of the US-led commotion created over its nuclear program.

Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei had even issued a fatwa (religious decree) declaring that such weapons of mass destruction violate Islamic principles and are therefore forbidden.

Biden’s behavior closely monitored in Tehran

The Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman went on to dismiss the latest remarks by US President Joe Biden, stating that Washington has long sought to exclude Tehran from the global energy market but all to no avail.

“Biden’s behavior is being closely monitored here in Tehran, and we will be proceeding talks in Vienna on the basis of [his] behaviors … In international relations and during negotiations over various issues, we have never centered our talks either on optimism or cynicism,” Khatibzadeh said.

He then rejected the US president’s call for other countries to reduce their oil purchases from Iran, saying, “What is important for us is the on-the-ground realities. What Biden said shows how intertwined the whole world is, and that no country can be kept out of the [global] market.”

“The United States has tried for years to eliminate the Iranian nation from world markets, but day after day, it has gotten poorer and poorer outcomes,” Khatibzadeh said.

This, he continued, “is because of our young people, who work creatively. No matter how hard they (Americans) try, they are still trailing behind our youths.”

Biden claimed in a memo to the US State Department on Friday that there were sufficient supplies of petroleum so other countries can reduce what they buy from Iran.

The remarks come as China is the largest purchaser of Iranian oil. Figures show that the East Asia country has bought more than 500,000 barrels of crude oil a day from the Islamic Republic over the last three months. 

Elsewhere during his presser, Khatibzadeh also praised Tehran-Damascus ties and rejected some media reports about disagreements over the presence of Iranian military advisors in the war-ravaged country.

Syria has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy since March 2011. The Syrian government says the Israeli regime and its Western and regional allies are aiding Takfiri terrorist groups wreaking havoc in the country.

Iran has been offering military advisory support to Syria at the request of the Damascus government, enabling its army to speed up its gains on various fronts against terror outfits.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman then pointed to the latest developments in Afghanistan and said Tehran is concerned about the uptick in extremism and terrorism in its eastern neighbor.

He said Iran’s special envoy to Afghanistan Hassan Kazemi Qomi will soon visit the Afghan capital of Kabul for talks with the Taliban.

“We are concerned about extremism and terrorism. The ugliest form of this terrorism is [conducting] attacks on worshipers,” Khatibzadeh said, noting that governing Afghan authorities are fully responsible to ensure the security of ordinary people and Muslim worshippers.

The Taliban took power in Afghanistan in mid-August, as the US was in the middle of a chaotic troop withdrawal from the country. The group announced the formation of a caretaker government on September 7.

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