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Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian speaks during a press conference with his Syrian counterpart in the Iranian capital Tehran, on Dec. 6, 2021.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian speaks during a press conference with his Syrian counterpart in the Iranian capital Tehran, on Dec. 6, 2021. (Atta Kenare, AFP via Getty Images/TNS)

(Tribune News Service) — Iran said talks to revive its nuclear deal with world powers have made substantial progress, yet negotiators are still to resolve the “two or three” most difficult issues dividing the sides.

Negotiations in Vienna to rekindle the 2015 agreement — which eased sanctions in return for limits on Iran’s nuclear work — are in their 10th month, with diplomats suggesting talks should wrap up by the end of February.

“The scope and number of outstanding issues have reduced significantly, but the remaining issues are key and the hardest ones,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said in a press conference Monday, stressing there was still a “long way” to go.

Khatibzadeh’s boss, Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, said Saturday that Iran’s envoys in the Austrian capital continue to demand legal, political and economic guarantees that the U.S. won’t again scupper the accord, as then-President Donald Trump did in 2018.

That red line has been a key sticking point in the talks. The administration of President Joe Biden says such a guarantee is something Washington cannot deliver. U.S. lawmakers have long been skeptical about talks with Iran, and members from both parties in Congress were critical of the original pact.

Iran’s also seeking “swift reversibility” of its commitments if other parties to the deal violate it again, Khatibzadeh said.

Tehran has escalated its nuclear enrichment since Trump left the 2015 accord nearly four years ago and imposed sweeping sanctions on Iran’s economy.

Iran’s now purifying uranium to grades close to what’s needed for nuclear weapons, alarming regional foes and critics in the West who doubt Iranian assurances the country isn’t seeking to build a bomb.

©2022 Bloomberg L.P.

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