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Iran asks US to unfreeze $10 billion as sign of goodwill

Alex Berry
October 3, 2021

The Iranian foreign minister has set the release of billions in Iranian assets as a requirement for nuclear deal talks. The new hard-line government has said it wants tangible results in talks with the US.

The flag of Iran is seen in front of the building of the International Atomic Energy Agency
Iran has been enriching uranium beyond the restrictions set by the 2015 deal since the US withdrew in 2018Image: Michael Gruber/Getty Images

Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said during a TV interview on Sunday that he had asked the US to release Iranian assets in foreign banks as a means of proving how serious it is about returning to the 2015 nuclear deal.

Amirabdollahian said he had been approached by US representatives during his trip to New York to take part in the UN General Assembly late last month.

"I said, if their intentions are real, they should release some of Iran's blocked assets, for example $10 billion [€8.6 billion], and make a move so that we can say that Biden is different from Trump," Iraqi Kurdish news site Rudaw reported Amirabdollahian as saying.

Former President Donald Trump unilaterally pulled out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) — a deal to limit Iran's development of nuclear technology — in 2018 and renewed heavy economic sanctions against Tehran.

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Talks set to resume

Negotiations have been ongoing since President Joe Biden took office early this year. Biden has expressed an interest in returning to the deal; however, so far, the two sides have not entered into direct official talks.

Iranian negotiators have been meeting with their counterparts from China, Germany, France, Britain and Russia — the other signatories to the JCPOA — in Vienna.

The talks were suspended in June after Iran's presidential election that was won by an establishment hard-liner, Ebrahim Raisi. Amirabdollahian's deputy, Ali Bagheri, is set to resume the talks "shortly," dpa reported. Bagheri has been a fierce critic of the JCPOA in recent years.

Demands from both sides

Iran has previously called on the US to end its sanctions before it would consider a return to the deal. The Biden administration has said that Iran must first take steps to return to the nuclear enrichment restrictions imposed by the agreement.

Since 2018, Iran has enriched uranium far beyond the restrictions set in place by the JCPOA.

Raisi has vowed to end US sanctions, but he has been more critical of the JCPOA than his predecessor, Hassan Rouhani.

Amirabdollahian said on Sunday that Tehran wants tangible results. "We are not going to the negotiation table to have a coffee and then for everyone to return to their capitals and exchange documents. You have to show your genuine goodwill and intention," US-backed Radio Farda reported.

DPA contributed to this article.