Iran says direct US talks essential for nuclear deal ahead of historic meet

Abbas Araqchi (C), Iran's chief nuclear negotiator arrives at the Austria Center Vienna on May 16. AFP Photo

Iran's chief negotiator said June 8 that direct talks agreed between Tehran and Washington are essential, as discussions on his country's disputed nuclear programme are entering a "serious phase."

The two countries will hold their first full-scale bilateral talks in decades on Monday and Tuesday, an unprecedented move toward securing a comprehensive nuclear deal between Iran and the West. Iranian officials will then hold discussions with Russia in Rome on Wednesday and Thursday.

The Iranian foreign ministry said it was "working to arrange" other bilateral meetings with members of the P5+1 group - Britain, China, France, Russia, the U.S. and Germany - before the powers meet in Vienna from June 16-20.

The talks are aimed at securing a comprehensive agreement on the Islamic republic's nuclear programme, which the west says is aimed at developing weapons, ahead of a July 20 deadline imposed under an interim deal agreed last November.

In return, Iran wants an end to wide-ranging economic sanctions, imposed as punishment for its atomic programme and resisting extensive international inspections, that devastated its economy.

"We have always had bilateral discussions with the United States in the margin of the P5+1 group discussions, but since the talks have entered a serious phase, we want to have separate consultations," said Abbas Araqchi, Iran's chief negotiator in comments reported by state news agency IRNA.

"Most of the sanctions were imposed by the U.S. and other countries from the P5+1 group were not involved," he added.

Araqchi said the talks with the U.S. in Geneva will only address the nuclear issue, referring to Iran's ballistic missile programme that Washington had hoped to include in...

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