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Iran's President-Elect Is Making Clear Talking About Missiles Program Is Off-Limits


The U.S. envoy on Iran is getting ready for another round of indirect talks aimed at reviving the 2015 nuclear deal, but a newly elected president of Iran doesn't want to take on other issues the Americans are hoping to discuss. NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: Hardliner Ebrahim Raisi will be sworn in as Iran's president in August, and he's already making clear that some topics are off limits, like the country's missile program. But the Biden administration wants to talk about missiles and get a better nuclear deal with Iran. The first step is getting back into the one the Trump administration left. That job falls to U.S. envoy Robert Malley.

ROBERT MALLEY: I don't think that this window is going to be open forever. At some point, we'll have to conclude that this is not succeeding, but we're not there yet. We still think that it's possible. We still think that it's certainly in our interests. We think it's in Iran's interest, too. But they'll have to make that decision for themselves.

KELEMEN: In an interview to air on Friday's Morning Edition, Malley says the negotiations in Vienna have been tough. Iran wants more financial relief than the U.S. is willing to offer, and the U.S. wants to, in Malley's words, rewind the tape on work Iran has done since the Trump administration left the deal, like building its supply of nuclear fuel.

MALLEY: Get back to where we were in 2016 with a cap on the levels of enrichment, with a cap on what centrifuges they could use to enrich, with a cap on the amount of enriched uranium they could have and with the IEA, the nuclear inspectors being able to monitor everything they're doing, which is not occurring today.

KELEMEN: Iran refuses to meet U.S. diplomats, so Malley passes messages through European diplomats. He's also raising the cases of detained Americans, though Biden administration officials insist that this is separate from the nuclear diplomacy. Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Michele Kelemen has been with NPR for two decades, starting as NPR's Moscow bureau chief and now covering the State Department and Washington's diplomatic corps. Her reports can be heard on all NPR News programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered.