US may lift sanctions as part of Iran deal

·3-min read

Iran's chief nuclear negotiator says his country expects US sanctions on oil, banks and other sectors and on most individuals and institutions to be lifted based on agreements reached so far at talks in Vienna, Iranian state media report.

Russia and western European powers meanwhile gave contrasting accounts of the task ahead in the talks to bring Iran and the US fully back into compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal as the talks adjourned for six days.

"Sanctions...on Iran's energy sector, which include oil and gas, or those on the automotive industry, financial, banking and port sanctions, all should be lifted based on agreements reached so far," Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi was quoted as saying by Iranian state media.

Araqchi did not say under which mechanism sanctions would be lifted or refer to how Iran would meet US demands and return to its commitments under the deal.

"We will negotiate until the two sides' positions come closer and our demands are met," he said.

"If they are met there will be an agreement, if not there will naturally be no agreement."

The US State Department had no immediate comment on Araqchi's remarks.

US President Joe Biden is seeking to return to the deal after the country pulled out in 2018 under then-president Donald Trump and reimposed sanctions on Iran.

Iran responded as of 2019 by breaching many of the deal's limits on its nuclear activities.

The talks began last month in Vienna with the remaining parties to the deal - Iran, Russia, China, France, the UK and Germany - meeting in the basement of a luxury hotel and the US based in another hotel across the street.

Iran has refused to hold direct meetings with US officials.

"We have much work, and little time, left. Against that background, we would have hoped for more progress this week," senior diplomats from the so-called E3 - France, the UK and Germany - said in a statement.

Officials have said they hope to reach a deal by May 21, when an agreement between Iran and the UN nuclear watchdog on continued monitoring of some Iranian nuclear activities is due to expire.

"We have yet to come to an understanding on the most critical points. Success is by no means guaranteed but not impossible," they added.

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said on Friday the talks were in "an unclear place," meaning it was uncertain whether they would lead to an agreement.

"We should not expect breakthroughs in the days to come," Russia's ambassador to the UN nuclear watchdog, Mikhail Ulyanov, told reporters after a meeting of the remaining parties that wrapped up the third round of talks, adding the talks would reconvene on Friday.

"We need simply to continue diplomatic, day-to-day work, and we have all the reasons to expect that the outcome, (the) final outcome, will be successful and it will come quite soon, in a few weeks," Ulyanov, who is one of the more optimistic voices at the talks, said.

The break in talks was widely expected as diplomats said officials from several countries are also involved in the G7 foreign ministers' meeting in London that begins on Monday and ends on Wednesday.