U.S.’s Blinken: ‘The path to diplomacy is open right now’ with Iran



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WASHINGTON, Feb 16 (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of StateAntony Blinken said on Tuesday “the path to diplomacy is openright now” with Iran over its 2015 nuclear deal but would notaddress whether the Biden administration has had any directengagement with Iranian officials.

“The path to diplomacy is open right now. Iran is still aways away from being in compliance (with the deal). So we’llhave to see what it does,” Blinken told National Public Radioaccording to a transcript provided by the broadcaster.

Asked if there was any move under way to resume directdiplomacy, Blinken pointed to U.S. President Joe Biden’s publicstance that if Iran resumes compliance with the 2015 nucleardeal the United States would do so too.

“The president’s been very clear publicly, repeatedly, aboutwhere we stand. And we’ll see what, if any, reaction Iran has tothat,” he said.

The interviewer noted Blinken had not directly answered thequestion and asked: “but you’re not ruling out that directdiplomacy might be somewhere in the future here?”

Blinken responded: “Well, at some point, presumably, ifthere’s going to be any engagement on this, that would have torequire diplomacy. That’s what we’re in the business of.”

In 2018, former U.S. President Donald Trump abandoned thenuclear deal, which limited Iran’s uranium enrichment activityto make it harder for Tehran to develop nuclear arms – anambition Iran has long denied having – in return for the easingof U.S. and other sanctions.

When Trump left the deal, which Iran struck with six majorpowers, he reimposed crippling sanctions on Iran’s economy.

In response, Tehran has breached the deal’s key limits,enriching uranium to 20% – above a 3.67% cap but below the 90%needed for weapons – expanding its stockpile of low-enricheduranium, and using advanced centrifuges for enrichment.

Iran has told the U.N. nuclear watchdog it will scale backcooperation with it in a week, ratcheting up protests againstU.S. sanctions still choking its economy.(Reporting by Arshad Mohammed)