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US Secretary of State and Israeli Foreign Minister block talks on Iran nuclear dealExBulletin

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With the Israeli Foreign Minister in Washington to meet with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, the focus is on how to approach talks with Iran on the resumption of the 2015 nuclear deal.



AILSA CHANG, HOST:

There’s growing concern about stalled nuclear talks with Iran. Israel says Iran is crawling to make progress on its nuclear program. European diplomats are trying to increase the pressure and the US is considering other options. NPR’s Michele Kelemen reports that this was a major topic in meetings today at the State Department.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: Secretary of State Antony Blinken was expecting his counterparts from the United Arab Emirates and Israel today, when attention quickly turned to Iran.

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YAIR LAPID: Iran is becoming a nuclear threshold country.

KELEMEN: This is Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid. President Trump withdrew the United States from a 2015 deal that limited Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for easing sanctions. The Biden administration has tried to revive the deal, but talks on ways to bring the two countries back in line with the law have stalled and Lapid is raising alarms.

LAPID: The Iranians are clearly pulling their heels, trying to trick the world into continuing to enrich uranium, to develop their own ballistic missile program. Secretary Blinken and I are the sons of Holocaust survivors. We know that there are times when nations must use force to protect the world from evil.

KELEMEN: Secretary of State Blinken is much more cautious, hoping a revived deal will be able to capture Iran’s nuclear program and prevent Iran from buying a nuclear weapon.

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ANTONY BLINKEN: We believe that the diplomatic route is the most effective way to ensure that this does not happen.

KELEMEN: But he noted that the new Iranian government has not yet agreed on a date to resume those talks in Vienna. A senior European Union official is visiting Tehran this week to try to clarify it, saying it is essential to start talks where they broke down in June. Blinken says time is short.

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BLINKEN: We are prepared to look at other options if Iran does not change course. And these consultations with our allies and partners are part of that.

KELEMEN: US envoy Rob Malley says he is planning to go to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar to coordinate with Gulf allies. He spoke at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace about the state of play and diplomacy. Malley also spoke of his efforts to persuade Iran to release the Americans being held there.

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ROB MALLEY: We have been engaged – again, indirectly – with Iran since Day 1 in talks to secure the release of four Americans who have been unjustly, cruelly and brutally arrested as hostages.

KELEMEN: Among those four are American father and brother Babak Namazi, who told reporters last week that his father needs surgery to prevent a possible stroke.

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BABAK NAMAZI: My father has already lost so much precious time. I am begging Iran to allow him to spend any little time he has left with his family. My brother still makes food

KELEMEN: Today, his brother turned six years behind bars in Iran, accused of collaborating with a hostile country. His father is still unable to leave Iran for that urgent medical attention.

Michele Kelemen, NPR News, State Department.

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