U.S. to discuss way forward on Iran in Moscow, Paris talks

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FILE PHOTO: Iran's flag pictured in March
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By Arshad Mohammed

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley will visit Moscow and Paris this week for talks with Russian and European officials on Iran's nuclear program, the State Department said in a statement on Tuesday.

The talks will cover "Iran's nuclear program and the need to quickly reach and implement an understanding on a mutual return to compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action," it said, referring to Iran's 2015 nuclear deal with major powers.

Former President Donald Trump withdrew from the deal, under which Iran agreed to limit its nuclear activities in return for the lifting of sanctions. Tehran responded to the reimposition of U.S. sanctions by violating many of the limits. Indirect talks on reviving the deal last took place on June 20.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a U.S. official said Malley was expected to meet Russian officials in Moscow on Wednesday and Thursday and British, French, German and European Union officials in Paris on Friday.

The official suggested the talks would not focus on next week's meeting of the board of governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The U.N. nuclear watchdog criticized Iran for stonewalling an investigation into past activities and jeopardizing important monitoring work, possibly complicating efforts to resume talks on the Iran nuclear deal. Tehran maintains its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

"The focus of our meeting will be on nuclear diplomacy with Iran and where we go from here," said the U.S. official, saying Washington still does not know when talks on reviving the deal might resume while Iran's nuclear program continues to advance.

"We are also discussing what our approach would be if and when we conclude that Iran is not interested in a return (to the deal)" or envisages a return on terms Washington would not accept. "We have to consider what those alternatives would be."

While noting the trip does not include visiting China, the official said: "We are in touch with our Chinese colleagues."

(Reporting by Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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