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World: Raisi tells Macron nuclear talks must guarantee Tehran's 'rights'

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Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said Monday any talks over Tehran's nuclear programme must ensure Iran's "rights", while his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron urged the Islamic republic to resume negotiations quickly.

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Raisi also told Macron in the hour-long phone call that Tehran is serious about "maintaining deterrence" in Gulf waters, following accusations from Israel and its allies, mainly the United States, that it was behind a deadly tanker attack off Oman -- charges it denied.

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It was the ultraconservative Raisi's first reported call with a Western leader since taking office last week.

He took over from Hassan Rouhani, a moderate whose landmark achievement during his two-term presidency was the 2015 nuclear agreement, which provided international sanctions relief in exchange for limitations on Tehran's nuclear programme.

Former US president Donald Trump torpedoed the deal three years later by unilaterally withdrawing Washington from it and reimposing crushing sanctions.

"In any negotiation, the rights of the Iranian people must be upheld and the interests of our nation ensured," Raisi told Macron, according to the Iranian presidency's website.

Macron also "called on Iran to quickly resume negotiations in Vienna to reach a conclusion and to put an end, without delay, to all nuclear activities that violate the (2015) agreement," the French presidency said.

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In response to the reimposed US sanctions, Tehran pulled back from most of its main nuclear commitments under the deal.

Six rounds of nuclear talks between Iran and world powers were held in the Austrian capital between April and June in an attempt to revive the accord. The last round concluded on June 20, with no date set for another.

Iranian officials had said negotiations would not resume before the new government took over, while an EU official said at the weekend that meetings could resume in Vienna from early September.

The accord's remaining parties are Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia.

- 'Maintaining deterrence' -

"The Americans clearly violated their obligations by imposing new sanctions," Raisi told Macron, while also stressing the "failure" of European members of the deal to help Iran circumvent US sanctions.

Both Raisi and Macron also stressed the need to strengthen bilateral relations, the statements said.

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During his swearing-in ceremony on Thursday, Raisi repeated Tehran's official position that it was pursuing only "peaceful" nuclear technology, and said that he will support "any diplomatic plans" to lift the sanctions on his country.

But "the policy of pressure and sanctions will not cause the nation of Iran to back down from following up on its legal rights," he added.

Tehran has recently also faced warnings and accusations from Israel and its allies over a deadly tanker attack, for which it denies responsiblity.

The MT Mercer Street, an oil products tanker operated by Israeli-controlled Zodiac Maritime, was struck on July 29 off Oman's coast. Two crew members, a Briton and a Romanian, were killed.

Iran has warned Israel not to take military action against it after its arch-foe threatened Tehran over the tanker attack.

"The Islamic republic is very serious about providing security and maintaining deterrence in the Persian Gulf and Sea of Oman Region," Raisi told Macron, without referring directly to the incident or the accusations.

Iran "will confront elements that deprive the region of its security", he added.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also renewed vows Monday to hold Iran accountable for the tanker attack, saying the world cannot allow "impunity".

"Failing to do so will only fuel their sense of impunity and embolden others inclined to disregard the maritime order," he told a virtual Security Council session on maritime security.

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US, allies step up pressure on Iran to return to nuke talks .
WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States and its closest partners are stepping up pressure on Iran to return to stalled nuclear negotiations, warning that it will face greater international isolation, new economic penalties and possibly military action if it forges ahead with its atomic program. In a series of high-level diplomatic meetings this week in Washington, U.S.. European, Israeli and Arab officials agreed on the need to make clear to Iran that its continued resistance to rejoining the talks in Vienna will not be ignored or left unpunished.

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