US to exert pressure on Iran if it uses Vienna talks to boost nuclear program: Envoy

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The US and its partners will exert pressure on Iran if it uses the Vienna talks scheduled to resume on Monday as a ruse to accelerate its nuclear program, US special envoy to Iran Robert Malley told BBC on Saturday.

“If Iran thinks it can use this time to build more leverage and then come back and say they want something better it simply won't work. We and our partners won't go for it,” he said.

He added: “If that's Iran's approach, which is to try to use the negotiations as cover for an accelerated nuclear program, and as I say, drag its feet at the nuclear table, we will have to respond in a way that is not our preference.”

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“Nobody should be surprised if at that point there is increased pressure on Iran,” Malley, who heads the US negotiating team to the talks in Vienna, said.

Indirect talks between the US and Iran, with participation of France, Russia, China, UK and Germany, to revive the abandoned 2015 nuclear deal are set to resume in Vienna on Monday after a five-month hiatus.

Under the 2015 accord, Iran was only allowed to enrich uranium up to 3.67 percent, way below the 90 percent required for weapons-grade uranium.

However, after former US President Donald Trump withdrew from the accord in 2018 and imposed sanctions on Iran, Tehran began aggressively enriching uranium.

Talks between Iran and the US have stalled after Ebrahim Raisi was elected president in June.

Washington has repeatedly warned that its patience was wearing thin and threatened a so called “Plan B” was in place if Tehran wouldn’t play ball, but did not elaborate on the details of said plan.

“We hope not to get that there, but if we are, then pressure will have to increase to send a message to Iran that the choice it is making is the wrong one. That it has a different path available to it, but it's not a path open indefinitely because Iran's nuclear program is putting the very essence of the deal negotiated [in 2015] at risk,” he said.

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