Iran nuclear deal members urge Tehran return to compliance

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Members of the 'Council of Resistance of Iran' demonstrate in Vienna, Austria, Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020 for the reactivation of the sanctions resolutions of the UN Security Council against Iran. A bilateral meeting as part of the nuclear talks with Iran is taking place in Austria. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak)

BERLIN – World powers that are part of a landmark 2015 nuclear deal with Iran urged Tehran on Wednesday to roll back violations of the accord and return to full compliance during a virtual meeting in Vienna, a German official said.

The meeting came as the signatories to the agreement — Germany, France, Britain, China and Russia — continue to try and keep it from collapsing after the unilateral withdrawal of the United States in 2018.

The three European powers have expressed hope that with the change of administrations in Washington, the U.S. could be brought back into the deal, whose goal is to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear bomb — something Tehran insists it doesn't want to do.

President-elect Joe Biden has said he hopes to return the U.S. to the deal, which was negotiated while he was vice president.

But complicating that, Iran is now in violation of most major restrictions set out in the agreement, including the amount of enriched uranium it is allowed to stockpile and the purity to which it is allowed to enrich uranium.

German Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Adebahr said Wednesday's meeting of political directors and deputy foreign ministers would assess implementation of the nuclear accord, and that the European countries would demand Iran return to full compliance.

Iran has said it is no longer obliged to follow the restrictions, arguing that the U.S. first violated the agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan or Action, or JCPOA, when President Donald Trump pulled out of the deal and imposed crippling economic sanctions on Iran.

The Russian delegate to the JCPOA, Mikhail Ulyanov, tweeted after the meeting that “the participants confirmed their firm commitment to the nuclear deal, as well as readiness to undertake intensive diplomatic efforts to ensure its full implementation.”

The deal promises Iran economic incentives in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program, but with the reinstatement of American sanctions, the other nations have been struggling to provide Iran the assistance it seeks.

Despite Iran's violations, the International Atomic Energy Agency has reported that Tehran continues to give inspectors full access to its nuclear sites — a key reason the JCPOA member nations say it is worth preserving.

Delegates to Wednesday's meeting agreed to hold further “informal” ministerial-level talks on Dec. 21.

___ Frank Jordans contributed to this story.