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The US would welcome any Iranian moves to slow down its nuclear program

By Humeyra Pamuk and Arshad Mohammed

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Tuesday he could not confirm a report that Iran was slowing the pace of amassing near-weapon-enriched uranium, but that he rejected any Iranian move to address its “growing nuclear threat”. to de-escalate would welcome. “

Blinken also told reporters that Iran’s putting American prisoners under house arrest had nothing to do with any other aspect of US policy toward Iran, which he said reflected a strategy of deterrence, pressure and diplomacy.

On Thursday, sources said Iran may release five detained US citizens as part of a deal to release $6 billion in Iranian funds in South Korea. Iran allowed four detained US citizens to be placed on house arrest from prison. A fifth was already under house arrest.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that Iran had significantly slowed the rate at which it accumulated near-weapon-enriched uranium and diluted some of its stockpile, steps that could ease tensions with the US and broaden talks about Iran’s nuclear program. would breathe life into.

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“Of course, we welcome any steps Iran is taking to actually de-escalate the growing nuclear threat it poses since the United States emerged from the Iran nuclear deal,” Blinken said at a news conference, referring to the former president’s statement. US President Donald Trump in 2018. waiving that agreement.

Under the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) between Iran and six major powers, Iran had agreed to curb its nuclear program to make it more difficult to obtain a nuclear weapon — an ambition it denies — in exchange for aid of the US. Sanctions of the European Union and the United Nations.

When asked if the delay reported by Iran and the release of the detainees to house arrest were related in any way, Blinken said they were different issues. “The agreement we are pursuing to bring home those who are wrongfully detained in Iran is an entirely different matter that we want to see through, and that is what I am focusing on.”

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The deal announced last week left out 60-year-old Shahab Dalili, a US permanent resident who has been detained in Iran since 2016, even as his family has repeatedly pleaded with the Biden administration to include him in the deal or release him. at least labeled as “wrong”. locked up”.

Dalili has started a hunger strike in Iran’s Evin Prison where he was imprisoned, his son said Monday.

The State Department is making the legal determination of wrongful detention, which essentially means that the US government considers the allegations politically motivated and false.

Blinken emphasized that the agreement covers US citizens all identified as wrongfully detained and said Washington would continue to investigate other matters.

“For privacy reasons, I can’t talk about individual cases. All I can say is that, as a matter of policy, we are constantly reviewing whether a given individual, whether a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident, was incarcerated.” wrongfully detained in another country,” he said.

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(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk, Simon Lewis, Arshad Mohammed and Daphne Psaledakis; Written by Arshad Mohammed; Edited by Josie Kao)

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