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US denies deal with Iran in talks to return to nuclear accord

U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan. (Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images/TNS)

Talks on a U.S. return to the nuclear deal with Iran have a “fair distance” to go, national security adviser Jake Sullivan said, after Iran said this weekend that there’s agreement on lifting some U.S. sanctions.

“The short answer is there is no deal now,” Sullivan said on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday. U.S. diplomats “will keep working at that over the coming weeks to try to arrive at a mutual return” to the nuclear deal within guidance laid out by President Joe Biden, he said.

World powers, led by the European Union and including Russia and China, are trying to broker a U.S.-Iranian deal to revive the accord abandoned by former President Donald Trump in 2018. The U.S. isn’t negotiating directly with Iran at the talks, which have been held in Vienna, but is participating in discussions led by the other parties to the treaty.

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi said Saturday there was an “agreement in place” for lifting sanctions on “most individuals” and on Iran’s energy, auto, financial, insurance and port industries. By contrast, a European official said much remains to be done to reach a deal.

“There is still fair distance to travel to close the remaining gaps, and those gaps are over what sanctions the United States and other countries will roll back,” Sullivan said Sunday. “They are over what nuclear restrictions Iran will accept on its program to ensure that they can never get a nuclear weapon.”

Separately, Iranian state television reported Sunday that the U.S. had agreed to a prisoner swap and the release of $7 billion in frozen Iranian funds, according to the Associated Press. An Iranian official also was quoted as saying that the U.K. had agreed to pay 400 million pounds ($553 million) to secure the release of a British-Iranian woman imprisoned in Iran. The State Department immediately denied the report, the AP reported.

Iran has said that the U.S. must remove all sanctions that the Trump administration imposed on Iran, not just those that come under the terms of the nuclear accord.

Delegates are working on details of a document that will formalize the U.S. return to, and Iran’s full compliance with, the original agreement, which limited Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief, Araghchi said.

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