Iran demands US release $10 billion before talks resume on nuclear deal

Washington has been pressing Tehran to return to the negotiating table on the nuclear deal, but the Iranians want a show of good will. 

By Donna Rachel Edmunds, World Israel News

Iran is refusing to sit down with Washington to discuss the nuclear deal until the Biden administration first release $10 billion of frozen funds as a sign of good will.

Diplomatic efforts to entice Iran back into the 2015 nuclear deal stalled over the summer, initially as they were put on hold due to elections in Tehran, and then because the Iranian regime refused to return to the negotiating table.

The deal was abandoned by the Trump administration in 2018, with Iran exiting shortly after. The Biden administration is attempting to bring the deal, which limits Iran’s nuclear program to energy use, back together.

Washington attempted to approach Iran via intermediaries at the United Nations last month, but was rebuffed, Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian told state television in an interview Saturday, according to Reuters.

“The Americans tried to contact us through different channels [at the U.N. General Assembly] in New York, and I told the mediators if America’s intentions are serious then a serious indication was needed … by releasing at least $10 billion of blocked money,” the minister said.

“They are not willing to free $10 billion belonging to the Iranian nation so that we can say that the Americans once in the past several decades considered the interests of the Iranian nation.”

On Thursday, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell told a news conference in Doha that the Vienna-based roundtable talks, which had reached a sixth round before being paused, will resume “within an acceptable period of time”.

Tehran, on the other hand, has shown no impatience to return to the table, and has indicated that it is still evaluating the results of the sixth round.

Saeed Khatibzadeh, a spokesperson for Iran’s foreign ministry told Le Monde that “Iran has reached conclusion that we certainly will return to the nuclear talks,” adding that Iran will not “waste an hour before returning to Vienna talks once a re-evaluation of the sixth round of the nuclear talks” is completed by the new government.

“The Biden administration should finally make a decision: either it wants to preserve Trump’s legacy or it wants to build Biden’s. This is a purely political decision,” said Khatibzadeh, adding that “We don’t have a lot of time ahead of us”.

In May, the International Atomic Energy Agency reported that Iran was enriching uranium up to 60% fissile purity, up from 20% in April. In mid-August, the IAEA informed member states that Iran is now using a second cascade for that purpose, effectively doubling the rate of production.

The 2015 nuclear deal capped enrichment at 3.67%, a rate suitable for energy purposes. Weapons grade uranium is enriched to 90%.