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Iran urges definite delisting of IRGC; US says many sanctions to remain

An Iranian official says the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) should definitely be removed from the US list of so-called foreign “terrorist” organizations, but the US envoy for Iran says the force will remain sanctioned even if a deal is reached in Vienna on reviving the 2015 nuclear deal.

Speaking at the Doha Forum international conference on Sunday, Kamal Kharazi, an advisor to Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, said the IRGC is a national army and thus its designation is unacceptable.

“The name of the IRGC should be removed from the US list of foreign terrorist organizations. The IRGC is a national army and no national army can be considered a terrorist group,” he said.

Iran, he said, will not back down from efforts to secure a removal the IRGC from the list.

Kharazi also pointed to talks in Vienna aimed at resurrecting the US-ditched Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

“A nuclear deal is imminent, but issues depend on America’s political will. There must be guarantees that the US will not withdraw from the nuclear deal once again in the future,” he added.

Kharazi stressed that the US policy of “maximum pressure” has failed and that the Islamic Republic will need time to verify the removal of the sanctions.

US Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley remained defiant, telling the conference that the IRGC will remain sanctioned under US law.

“Regardless of what happens to the IRGC issue that you raise, our view of the IRGC is many other sanctions on the IRGC will remain. This is not a deal that intends to resolve that issue.”

He also said a deal in Vienna was not “inevitable” and not “just around the corner”.

“I can’t be confident it is imminent… A few months ago we thought we were pretty close as well,” Malley said. 

“We’ve been pretty close now for some time. And I think that tells you all you need to know about the difficulty of the issues,” he said.

“In any negotiations, when there’s issues that remain open for so long, it tells you something about how hard it is to bridge the gap.”

Malley said, “The sooner we get back into the deal, which is in our interest, and presumably Iran’s interest, the more faithfully we implement it, and the more we can build on it to address the other issues between us and Iran and between Iran and the region.”

US must be realistic, top negotiator tells Mora in Tehran 

In Tehran, the EU’s coordinator for talks to restore the nuclear deal, Enrique Mora, met Iran’s chief negotiator who warned the the US to act pragmatically.

Ali Baqeri Kani “stressed that an agreement can be reached if the American side is realistic”, official IRNA news agency reported.  

“Working on closing the remaining gaps in the #ViennaTalks on the #JCPOA,” Mora tweeted ahead of his trip. “We must conclude this negotiation. Much is at stake.” 

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said he saw a renewed accord within “days”, but there are issues which have to be sorted out. 

“We are very close but there are still some issues pending,” Borrell told reporters on the sidelines of the Doha Forum. “I cannot tell you when or how, but it is a matter of days.”

FM Amir-Abdollahian clarifies remarks 

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said one of the key issues facing the deal is removing the IRGC from the US blacklist. 

Amir-Abdollahian explained that his remarks in an interview the day before did not mean Tehran was not pursuing the IRGC’s de-listing. 

The foreign minister had cited some IRGC officials suggesting that the issue could be dropped if a deal ensured “national interests”.

“The IRGC has always been and remains the guardian of the country and the nation and what was said was the approach of our supreme commanders, who believe securing and guarding the interests of the nation in case of a good, strong and lasting agreement should not be delayed for a moment,” he said on Sunday.

“At the same time, as carefully explained in the interview, such an agreement can only be reached by fully respecting the red lines and things commonly accepted as established facts,” he added.

Earlier this month, the Vienna talks were paused despite reports suggesting that they were in the “final stages”, with Iranian officials blaming the US for the stalemate.

They say the US needs to remove all illegal sanctions against the Islamic Republic in a verifiable manner and give guarantees that a new US administration will not abandon the JCPOA again. 

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