US, Iran set to resume talks

WASHINGTON – The U.S. is reassembling key members of the diplomatic team that held secret negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program, leading to a breakthrough agreement, and sending them to Geneva for direct talks with representatives from Tehran in hopes of making progress toward a comprehensive final deal.

The discussions involving Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman and Jake Sullivan, Vice President Joe Biden’s top foreign policy adviser, are set for Monday and Tuesday. The European Union’s political director, Helga Schmid, will sit in.

The interim deal reached in November by Iran and six world powers – the U.S., Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany – limited Iran’s uranium enrichment program. In exchange, some penalties imposed against Iran were eased. But sanctions such as those targeting Iran’s oil imports, have remained in place.

Those nuclear talks are scheduled to resume June 16. There’s an informal deadline of July 20 for a comprehensive deal.

Iran’s official IRNA news agency said the upcoming U.S. talks would be followed by separate discussions in Rome between Iranian and Russian officials on Tuesday and Wednesday. IRNA quoted Abbas Araqchi, a senior member of Iran’s nuclear negotiating team, as saying that the Islamic Republic planned to hold other bilateral talks as well with the other world powers, but those meetings had yet to be set.

Iran insists its program is for peaceful energy and medical research purposes. Much of the world fears Iran may be trying to develop nuclear weapons.

The new face-to-face talks come as the deadline approaches for world powers and Iran to translate their interim nuclear agreement into a comprehensive deal.

Talks have focused on restricting Iran’s uranium enrichment and eliminating the possibility of it producing plutonium that can be used in warheads. In exchange, the U.S. and others would ease penalties that have crimped Iran’s economy.