Iran on September 19 ruled out any bilateral meeting between Iranian and U.S. officials on efforts to revive a seven-year-old nuclear deal and floated a demand for "guarantees" as the UN General Assembly prepares to gather in New York this week.
But Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani said Tehran isn't ruling out a meeting on the topic with world powers.
The ministry statements followed the broadcast of a U.S. television interview with hard-line Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi in which he suggested Tehran "would be serious about reaching an agreement" so long as "it's a good deal and a fair deal."
But Raisi also called for guarantees in any new nuclear deal in light of the previous U.S. administration's decision to withdraw unilaterally from the original 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) that traded curbs on Iran's nuclear activities for sanctions relief.
After 16 months of international negotiations and indirect talks between Tehran and Washington, the European Union last month put forward a final offer to overcome an impasse for the JCPOA's revival.
Iran responded to the proposal, to which the United States replied, prompting a further response from Tehran, bolstering hopes a deal may be near.
In a rare interview ahead of a visit to the UN General Assembly, Raisi told the CBS program 60 Minutes in a pretaped interview of any agreement: "It needs to be lasting. There need to be guarantees. If there were a guarantee, then the Americans could not withdraw from the deal."
Then-President Donald Trump scuppered the JCPOA in 2018 and reimposed tough economic sanctions on Iran that have helped cripple its economy, while Joe Biden came into office in 2021 vowing to seek a new deal.
"We cannot trust the Americans because of the behavior that we have already seen from them," Raisi said. "That is why if there is no guarantee, there is no trust."
A deal appeared within reach in March but hopes waned until the EU text emerged last month.
Tehran is pressing for the UN's nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), to close an investigation into uranium traces found at three undeclared sites as a condition for a new agreement.
The United States and Iran have sent tough messages since then.
Observers expect both sides to try to use the attention around the UN General Assembly to try to increase their leverage on terms for a sustainable deal.
Tehran recently signaled ahead of the UN gathering that it was prepared to agree on prisoner swaps with the United States even in the absence of a new nuclear agreement.
But tensions have otherwise increased recently between Iran and the United States over Iran's supply of military drones to Russia to help Moscow in its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, human rights issues since the death of a 22-year-old Iranian woman three days after police arrested her for allegedly breaking the country's strict Islamic dress code, and alleged Iranian cyberattacks on NATO ally Albania.
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Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
International Oil Economist
Global Energy Expert