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Iran's chief negotiator Abbas Araghchi outside Vienna's Grand Hotel, where the talks are being held. Photo: Joe Klamar/AFP via Getty

Last week's round of indirect nuclear talks between the U.S. and Iran in Vienna was the first in which progress was made on both negotiating tracks, sanctions relief and nuclear measures, U.S. officials say.

Breaking it down: The working group focusing on sanctions relief required of the U.S. to return to compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal had made steady progress in the first three rounds. But the other, focusing on the nuclear measures required of Iran, stalled due to Iran's hardline positions and the question of what happens to Iran's new advanced centrifuges, U.S. officials contend.

  • That led the Biden administration to make clear both privately and publicly that there would be no deal if Iran didn't roll back its nuclear program sufficiently to put its "breakout time" — the time needed to enrich enough uranium for a weapon — at least one year out.
  • But the U.S. side felt Iran showed more flexibility in the fourth round of talks and was reassured that Iran agreed to extend nuclear inspections for another month, avoiding a showdown that could have seriously damaged the chances of a deal.

Driving the news: Iran's chief negotiator, Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi, told reporters in Vienna on Tuesday that he hopes this will be the final round of talks before an agreement is reached. "You can have such hope, but you have to be a little bit cautious," he said.

  • A U.S. official told me a deal is achievable and shouldn't take months to reach, but it will require more nuclear concessions from Iran.
  • “The latest round of talks was constructive and saw meaningful progress. But much work still needs to be done," Rob Malley, who leads the U.S. delegation, tweeted before catching his flight to Vienna.

What to watch: Diplomats involved in the talks are bracing for a possible lull in negotiations ahead of the Iranian presidential elections on June 18.

  • The final list of candidates approved by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei was published on Tuesday. Parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani, who is closer to the Reformist camp, was excluded, leaving conservative judiciary chief Ibrahim Raisi as the leading candidate.

Go deeper

Sep 1, 2021 - World

Biden and Israeli PM renewed agreement on covert nuclear program

Bennett with Biden in the Oval Office. Photo: Sarahbeth Maney-Pool/Getty

President Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett reaffirmed the strategic understandings between the U.S. and Israel regarding Israel’s alleged undeclared military nuclear program during Bennett's White House visit, a senior Israeli official briefed on the meeting tells me.

The big picture: This has become a ritual for every U.S. president since Richard Nixon in their first meeting with the Israeli prime minister.

NASA estimates Tonga volcano exploded with force of 5-6 megatons

A satellite image of Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha’apai volcano on Dec. 24, before the eruption. Photo: Satellite image ©2022 Maxar Technologies

NASA scientists estimate the power of Tonga's volcanic eruption over the weekend to have been 5-6 Megatons of TNT equivalent.

Threat level: Saturday's eruption of the Hunga Tonga Hunga Haʻapai volcano and subsequent tsunami killed at least three people. Scientists warn an "ash-seawater cocktail" poses a potentially toxic health threat, and drinking water could be contaminated.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

New York AG alleges "significant evidence" of Trump Organization fraud

Combination images of former President Trump and New York State Attorney General Letitia James. Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images; Scott Heins/Getty Images

New York's attorney general filed a motion Tuesday seeking to compel former President Trump and his two elder children to appear for sworn testimony in her office's civil investigation into the Trump Organization's financial dealings.

Why it matters: Attorney General Letitia James revealed new details in the court filing and a statement on her office's investigation into the Trump Organization's business practices, including a preliminary finding alleging the company used "fraudulent and misleading asset valuations to obtain economic benefits."