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UPDATE 3-Blinken discusses Iran with UK, French, German ministers

· 02/05/2021 10:42
UPDATE 3-Blinken discusses Iran with UK, French, German ministers

Updates with meeting

By Humeyra Pamuk and Arshad Mohammed

- U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken discussed Iran and other issues on Friday in a virtual meeting with his British, French and German counterparts as the group weighs how to revive the Iran nuclear deal.

"We just had a in-depth and important conversation on Iran ... to handle together nuclear and regional security challenges," French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Twitter, adding other issues were also addressed. nL8N2KB6FB

The high-level conversation is the latest step by President Joe Biden’s new administration to explore how to restore the 2015 nuclear deal that Iran signed with world powers but was abandoned in 2018 by Biden's predecessor, Donald Trump.

U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price declined comment on the substance of the meeting, but said Washington wanted "to make sure that we are working in lockstep with our European partners" on Iran.

Earlier, a U.S. official said the meeting between Blinken, Le Drian, Britain's Dominic Raab and Germany's Heiko Maas would also cover the coronavirus pandemic, Russia, China, Myanmar and climate.

The nuclear deal limited Iran's uranium enrichment activity to make it harder for Tehran to develop nuclear arms - an ambition Iran has long denied having - in return for the easing of U.S. and other sanctions.

In abandoning the deal approved by former President Barack Obama, Trump restored the U.S. sanctions it had removed and then piled on more.

Speaking before Friday's meeting, a source familiar with the matter said it was unlikely to delve into great detail on Iran and was a first chance for the ministers to discuss the issues.

The National Security Council will convene a meeting on Friday to be attended by top U.S. officials but not Biden himself.

"The meeting today is part of an ongoing policy review. It is not decisional," White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said on Twitter.

Biden, who took office last month, has said that if Tehran returned to strict compliance with the 2015 nuclear pact, Washington would follow suit and use that as a springboard to a broader agreement that might restrict Iran's missile development and regional activities.

Tehran has insisted that Washington ease sanctions before it resumed compliance, and ruled out negotiations on wider security issues. But Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif hinted on Monday at a way to resolve the impasse over who goes first by saying the steps could be synchronized.nL1N2K72DP

(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk and Arshad Mohammed;
Additonal reporting by John Irish in Paris; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Mark Heinrich and Sonya Hepinstall)

((humeyra.pamuk@thomsonreuters.com; +1 202 3105694; Reuters Messaging: Twitter: @humeyra_pamuk))