US seeks to extend, strengthen nuclear pact with Iran, says Secretary of State Antony Blinken

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the US remains committed to ensuring that Iran never acquires a nuclear weapon. PHOTO: AFP

GENEVA (REUTERS) - The United States will seek to strengthen and extend the agreement between world powers and Iran aimed at curbing its nuclear programme, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Monday (Feb 22).

The United Nations nuclear watchdog said on Sunday it had struck a deal with Iran to cushion the blow of steps Teheran plans to take this week that include ending snap inspections, with both sides agreeing to keep "necessary" monitoring for up to three months.

The announcement by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Rafael Grossi, made at Vienna airport after a weekend trip to Iran, confirmed that Teheran would go ahead with its plan to slash cooperation with the agency on Tuesday.

Mr Blinken, addressing the UN-sponsored Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, said in a pre-recorded speech: "The United States remains committed to ensuring that Iran never acquires a nuclear weapon. Diplomacy is the best path to achieve that goal."

US President Joe Biden has said that if Iran comes back into "strict compliance" with the 2015 pact, his administration will do the same, Mr Blinken said.

"Working with allies and partners, we will also seek to lengthen and strengthen the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) and address other areas of concern, including Iran's destabilising regional behaviour and ballistic missile development and proliferation," Mr Blinken said.

"Iran must comply with its safeguards agreements with the IAEA and its international obligations," he added.

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