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White House press secretary Jen Psaki holds a briefing at the White House in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, March 9, 2021. Psaki said Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021, that the Biden adminstration is preparing to sanction Iran if nuclear talks are not successful. (Yuri Gripas/Abaca Press/TNS)
White House press secretary Jen Psaki holds a briefing at the White House in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, March 9, 2021. Psaki said Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021, that the Biden adminstration is preparing to sanction Iran if nuclear talks are not successful. (Yuri Gripas/Abaca Press/TNS) (Yuri Gripas)

WASHINGTON — The U.S. is preparing a fresh round of sanctions against Iran if it doesn’t soon engage in negotiations to limit its nuclear program, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said, citing Tehran’s “ongoing advancements.”

“We believe a diplomatic resolution offers the best path to avoiding a nuclear crisis,” she said at a briefing for reporters on Thursday. But she said President Joe Biden “has asked his team to be prepared in the event diplomacy fails.”

If talks in Vienna to revive a 2015 agreement to curb Iran’s program fail, “we will have no choice but to take additional measures” to restrict Iran’s revenue, she said.

“We have kept all the sanctions that we inherited in place, and we’ve consistently enforced sanctions, all while also presenting the clear path of their removal,” Psaki said. “If diplomacy cannot get on track soon, and if Iran’s nuclear program continues to accelerate, then we will have no choice but to take additional measures to further restrict Iran’s revenue-producing sectors.”

A senior U.S. official said Saturday that Iran hasn’t shown seriousness in the Vienna talks, in what was then the most pessimistic American assessment of the negotiations to date. In the seventh round of talks, Iran walked back many offers it had made in previous sessions and demanded sanctions relief beyond the terms of the original 2015 accord, the official told reporters.

Iran’s government said in a Dec. 5 statement that world powers can’t expect it to stop expanding its nuclear work until an agreement is reached with Tehran on how U.S. sanctions will be lifted.

Former President Donald Trump abandoned the deal in 2018; Biden seeks to rejoin it. But the U.S. is now preparing for a scenario where restoring the accord won’t be possible.

“Based on the outcome of the last round of talks and the ongoing advancements in Iran’s nuclear facilities, we are laying the groundwork for another path entirely,” Psaki said.

A group of officials from the State and Treasury Departments will meet with government and private-sector officials in the United Arab Emirates next week “to discuss our understanding of the companies and financial institutions that facilitate non-compliant Iranian commerce that runs through or touches the UAE,” she said.

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