France urges Iran to avoid nuclear escalation ahead of talks

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FILE – This Jan. 15, 2011 file photo shows Arak heavy water nuclear facilities, near the central city of Arak, 150 miles (250 kilometers) southwest of the capital Tehran, Iran. In a statement after a virtual meeting on Friday, April 2, 2021, the chair of a group of high-level officials from the European Union, China, France, Germany, Russia, Britain and Iran said the participants “emphasized their commitment to preserve the JCPOA and discussed modalities to ensure the return to its full and effective implementation.” (AP Photo/ISNA, Hamid Foroutan, File)

PARIS (AP) — France’s top diplomat spoke with his Iranian counterpart Saturday and urged Iran to be “constructive” and avoid further nuclear escalation ahead of talks next week aimed at trying to salvage a global accord curbing the Iranian nuclear program.

The United States and Iran said Friday they will begin indirect negotiations next week, in one of the first signs of progress in efforts to try to get both countries back into compliance with the 2015 accord. Then-President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of the accord in 2018, and Iran has been steadily violating its restrictions ever since.

Diplomats from Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and Iran will take part in Tuesday’s EU-brokered talks in Vienna. Those six countries have remained in the accord, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which bound Iran to nuclear restrictions in return for relief from U.S. and international sanctions.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian spoke Saturday with Iranian Foreign Minister Jawad Zarif to prepare for the talks.

“I encouraged Iran to be constructive,” Le Drian said in a statement. “I called on Iran to abstain from any further violation of its current commitments in the nuclear domain that could threaten the movement toward resumed discussions.”

Iran insists it is not seeking to make nuclear bombs.

President Joe Biden came into office saying that getting back into the nuclear accord and getting Iran’s nuclear program back under international restrictions was a priority for his U.S. administration. Iran wants sanctions to be lifted first.

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