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Outside the Grand Hotel in Vienna, where the nuclear talks are taking place. Photo: Joe Klamar/AFP via Getty

Big gaps between the U.S. and Iran over the measures needed to roll back and limit the Iranian nuclear program are stalling the Vienna talks, European diplomats and former U.S. officials briefed on the issue tell me.

What's happening: The Biden administration has said any deal to restore the 2015 nuclear accord must include a return by Iran to full compliance with its previous commitments. But that's complicated by the fact that Iran's nuclear program has advanced since 2015.

  • The U.S. and European signatories on the deal agree that Iran's "breakout time" — the time needed to produce enough enriched uranium for a bomb — must be at least a year. They also have a common position on what it would take to get there, a European diplomat tells me.
  • But Iran's position is much different. One key disagreement is over what will happen to the new, more sophisticated centrifuges Iran has installed that allow Tehran to enrich uranium much more quickly, the diplomat says.
  • Any new deal will have to determine whether Iran can still use those centrifuges and, if not, whether they would need to be taken out of the country or simply disconnected and stored in Iran.

Between the lines: Much of the discussion around the nuclear talks has focused on disagreements over which sanctions the U.S. would have to lift.

  • There has been substantive progress on that front in Vienna, but a separate working group handling the nuclear side of the equation has made almost no headway.

The state of play: The latest round of talks over the weekend did not produce any major progress, and were placed on hold while many attended a G7 meeting. They are expected to resume Friday in Vienna.

What to watch: Two major deadlines loom.

  • On May 20, a temporary deal that allows the International Atomic Energy Agency to monitor some Iranian nuclear sites expires. The Iranians are threatening to shut down IAEA cameras in those sites and thus severely diminish the international community's visibility into Iran’s nuclear program.
  • On June 18, Iran will hold presidential elections that could have a dramatic influence on the nuclear talks.

Update: A U.S. official responding to this story said, "If you're hearing that we and our partners have resolved not to cut any corners when it comes to Iran's nuclear commitments, that's absolutely true."

Go deeper

Blinken: U.S. worried about "rapid growth" of China's nuclear arsenal

Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Secretary of State Antony Blinken told foreign ministers from Southeast Asian countries on Friday that the United States is concerned about the rapid growth of China's nuclear arsenal.

Why it matters: The U.S. maintains no arms control agreements with China, though Washington has repeatedly encouraged Beijing to join its efforts alongside Russia in trilateral treaties to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds — Omicron pushes COVID deaths toward 2,000 per day — The pandemic-proof health care giant.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies — Federal judge blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults.
  5. Variant tracker

Arizona governor sues Biden administration over COVID funds tied to mandates

A teacher prepares a hallway barrier to help students maintain social distancing at John B. Wright Elementary School in Tucson, Arizona, on Aug. 14, 2020. Photo: Cheney Orr/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) filed a lawsuit Friday against the Biden administration for ordering the state to stop allocating federal COVID relief funds to schools that don't comply with public health recommendations such as masking, the Arizona Republic reports.

Why it matters: The Treasury Department said last week that the state would have to pay back the money if Ducey does not redesignate the $173 million programs to ensure they don't "undermine efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19."