Iranian diplomat visits UK amid growing pressure over jailed activist

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Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, Ali Bagheri Kani, was in London to meet with British officials ahead of a new round of talks on the revival of the Iran nuclear deal slated for Nov. 29 in Vienna.

The visit came as part of a renewed diplomatic push by the Islamic Republic aimed at a restored accord that could ideally see US sanctions lifted and reinject life into Iran’s choking economy.

UK officials have voiced support for the revival of the deal, which the United States departed from in 2018. To that end, London has urged Tehran to comply with the restrictions the original agreement placed on the Iranian nuclear program. The same has been raised by the other European signatories, France and Germany, which were destinations in Bagheri’s European tour earlier this week.

While little has been reported from the Iranian negotiator’s meetings in Berlin and Paris, Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian tweeted about his envoy’s “successful talks” and expressed Iran’s readiness for a “good agreement” in Vienna. Despite those positive signals, the government under hard-line President Ebrahim Raisi has rejected a demand from the Western sides to pick up the new negotiations from where all the parties left off back in June when the administration of moderate former President Hassan Rouhani was representing the Islamic Republic.

Further complicating the calculations, the Iranian top negotiator told the state media on Tuesday that “there is no negotiation on the nuclear issue because it was resolved in 2015. … Now, the agenda is the consequences of the US withdrawal from the deal.” Bagheri Kani was referencing the Iranian push for a verifiable removal of US sanctions guaranteed with nondeparture by future American administrations, a request the Joe Biden administration is not ready to accept.

It was not clear if, upon arrival at the premises of the UK Foreign Office, Bagheri Kani would set eyes on Richard Ratcliffe camped outside, as the latter entered the 19th day of his hunger strike in protest against the UK government’s failure to secure his wife’s release from Iran.

The British-Iranian charity worker, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliff, has been held in Tehran since 2016. Iran is accused of taking the activist hostage and exploiting her case as a pressure tool to elicit the repayment of an overdue 400 million pounds ($535 million) in debts from the UK government. Iranian officials have been waging the debt battle but claim that it has little to do with Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s sentence over “acting against national security” — a verdict, they insist, that was issued by the “independent” judiciary.

Despite the termination of her five-year jail ordeal in March, Zaghari-Ratcliffe was denied permission to fly back home and instead was handed down a new one-year sentence, which the 42-year-old mother is enduring at her parents’ home in Tehran with an electronic ankle tag restricting and monitoring her daily movements.

Source » al-monitor

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