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German Diplomat in Iran for Nuke Talks 05/23 06:12

5/23/2019 - 09:06:00

German Diplomat in Iran for Nuke Talks 05/23 06:12

   BERLIN (AP) -- A senior German diplomat headed Thursday to Tehran to press 
Iran to continue to respect the landmark nuclear deal, despite the unilateral 
withdrawal of the U.S. and increasing pressure from Washington.

   Tensions have soared in the Mideast recently as the White House earlier this 
month sent an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers to the region over a 
still-unexplained threat it perceived from Iran.

   In Berlin, the Foreign Ministry said Political Director Jens Ploetner was to 
hold talks with Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi on Thursday to 
try salvage the nuclear deal signed in 2015 in Vienna. The accord has steadily 
unraveled since the Trump administration pulled America out of the deal, 
re-imposed and escalated U.S. sanctions on Tehran last year.

   The German envoy's visit also follows Iran's declaration earlier this month 
that the remaining signatories to the deal --- Germany, France, Britain, China 
and Russia --- have two months to develop a plan to shield Iran from American 

   "The situation in the Persian Gulf and the region, and the situation 
surrounding the Vienna nuclear agreement, is extremely serious," the German 
Foreign Ministry said in an e-mail to The Associated Press. "There is a real 
risk of escalation --- including due to misunderstandings or an incident. In 
this situation, dialogue is very important."

   With Iran's 60-day deadline, the ministry said there is still a "window for 
diplomacy to persuade Iran to continue its full compliance" and said Germany 
remains in close contact with the other nations that have been struggling to 
keep the deal alive.

   The accord, intended to keep Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, promised 
economic incentives in exchange for restrictions on Tehran's nuclear 
activities. Despite efforts so far by the others to keep the deal from 
collapsing, Iran's economy has been struggling and its currency has plummeted 
after the re-imposition of U.S. sanctions.

   Iran continued abiding by the stipulations of the deal, according to a 
February report by the International Atomic Energy Agency, though it expressed 
increasing frustration with the inability of the Europeans to provide economic 
relief. A new IAEA report is due out soon.

   Then on Monday, Iran announced it had quadrupled its production capacity of 
low-enriched uranium. Iranian officials made a point to stress that the uranium 
would be enriched only to the 3.67% limit set under the nuclear deal, making it 
usable for a power plant but far below what's needed for an atomic weapon.

   But by increasing production, Iran will likely soon exceed the stockpile 
limitations set by the nuclear accord, which would escalate the situation 

   Several incidents have added to the crisis, including the sabotage of the 
oil tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates, as well as a rocket that 
landed near the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. The U.S. has blamed Iran for both 
incidents without publicly offering evidence. America also has evacuated 
nonessential diplomatic staff from Iraq amid the tensions.

   Also, Iran-aligned rebels in Yemen have targeted a Saudi pipeline and sent a 
bomb-laden drone to target a Saudi airport with a military base on Tuesday.