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US Still Open to Iran Nuke Talks       03/01 06:17


   WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Biden administration said Sunday it remains open to 
talks with Iran over the 2015 nuclear deal despite Tehran's rejection of an EU 
invitation to join a meeting with the U.S. and the other original participants 
in the agreement.

   A senior administration official said the U.S. was "disappointed" in the 
rejection but was flexible as to the timing and format of the talks and saw 
Iran's decision to snub the European invitation as part of the diplomatic 
process. The official said the U.S. would be consulting with the other 
participants --- Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the European Union 
--- on the way forward.

   The official was not authorized to discuss the matter by name and spoke on 
condition of anonymity.

   Earlier Sunday, Iran turned down the offer for talks saying the "time isn't 
ripe" for the meeting, at which the U.S. would have participated as an 
observer. Iran had been insisting that the U.S. lift or ease sanctions imposed 
on it by the Trump administration under its "maximum pressure campaign" before 
sitting down with the United States.

   President Joe Biden has said repeatedly that the U.S. would return to the 
deal that his predecessor, Donald Trump, withdrew from in 2018 only after Iran 
restores its full compliance with the accord.

   "Considering US/E3 positions & actions, time isn't ripe for the proposed 
informal meeting," Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said on 
Twitter. He referred to the so-called E3, which comprises Britain, France and 

   "Remember: Trump failed to meet because of his ill-advised 'Max Failure,'" 
he said. "With sanctions in place, same still applies. Censuring is NOT 
diplomacy. It doesn't work with Iran."

   The Biden administration announced earlier this month that it would accept 
an EU invitation to participate in a meeting of deal participants and at the 
same time rescinded a Trump determination from the U.N. Security Council that 
Iran was in significant breach of the agreement that all U.N. sanctions had 
been restored.

   The U.N. move had little practical effect as nearly all members of the world 
body had rejected Trump's determination because the U.S. was no longer a 
participant in the nuclear deal. Biden administration officials said the 
withdrawal of the determination was intended to show goodwill toward its 
partners and at the same time had eased severe restrictions on the movement of 
Iranian diplomats posted to the U.N.

   Separately on Sunday, the State Department condemned a weekend attack by 
Iran-backed Yemeni rebels on Saudi Arabia, saying it damaged prospects for 
peace. Along with the overtures to Iran on the nuclear front, the Biden 
administration also reversed several late Trump administration moves against 
Iranian-backed rebels in Yemen.

   Secretary of State Antony Blinken rescinded his predecessor's designation 
that the Houthi rebels were a "foreign terrorist organization," a move that the 
U.N. and relief groups had said would make the already disastrous humanitarian 
situation in Yemen even worse. In addition, the Biden administration decided to 
halt all offensive assistance to Saudi Arabia for its military campaign against 
the Houthis in Yemen.

   The Houthis, however, have stepped up their operations in the country, 
pressing ahead with an offensive in Marib province and launching attacks on 
Saudi Arabia.

   On Saturday, Saudi authorities said they had intercepted a missile attack 
over their capital and reported that bomb-laden drones had targeted a southern 
province, the latest in a series of airborne assaults they have blamed on the 

   State Department spokesman Ned Price on Sunday said the U.S. "strongly 
condemns the Houthis' attacks on population centers in Saudi Arabia." He said 
they "threaten not only innocent civilians but also prospects for peace and 
stability in Yemen" and called on the Houthis "to end these egregious attacks."

   "The United States remains committed to its longstanding partnership with 
the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and to helping Saudi Arabia defend its territory as 
it faces attacks from Iranian-aligned groups," Price said.

   On Friday, the Biden administration further strained ties with the Saudis 
when it published a declassified intelligence report finding that Saudi 
Arabia's crown prince had ordered an operation to capture or kill Jamal 
Khashoggi, a Washington Post journalist and U.S. resident who was brutally 
slain at the Saudi consulate in Turkey. Saudi Arabia has forcefully rejected 
the report's conclusions.

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