UPDATE 2-Blinken: "serious concern" if Iran fails to extend lapsed inspection deal with IAEA
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PARIS, June 25 (Reuters) - Any failure by Tehran to extend a monitoring agreement with the U.N. nuclear watchdog that expired this week would be a "serious concern" in talks to revive its nuclear deal with world powers, the U.S. Secretary of State said on Friday.
Antony Blinken made the comments hours before the head of the IAEA was expected to update its board of governors on whether it had reached a deal to extend the monitoring agreement, which lapsed on June 24.
Iran has been in talks with world powers since April about reviving the 2015 deal under which it agreed to curbs on its nuclear program in return for the lifting of sanctions. The Vienna talks are now in a pause expected to last until next week.
The United States abandoned the deal under then-President Donald Trump in 2018 and Iran responded by violating some of its restrictions. The new administration of President Joe Biden wants to revive the accord, but Tehran and Washington have yet to agree which side should take what steps, and when.
One of Iran's moves to reduce compliance was a decision to end extra monitoring of its nuclear sites by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in February. The inspections were extended twice by temporary deals, the last of which ended this week.
"This remains a serious concern," Blinken told reporters at a news conference in Paris alongside his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian. "The concern has been communicated to Iran and needs to be resolved."
A spokesman for the IAEA said that Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi would inform the IAEA Board of Governors on the matter during the course of Friday.
On Thursday, a senior State Department official told reporters it would be "extremely complicated" if Tehran were to fail to extend the inspections agreement with the IAEA.
Officials on all sides have said there are major issues still to be resolved before the nuclear deal can be revived.
"We still have significant differences with Iran," Blinken said, adding that he hoped a resumption of talks in the coming days could resolve them.
"We are only going to reach an agreement with Iran if it honors its obligations under the JCPoA, and we are just not there yet," he said, referring to the nuclear deal by an acronym.
Le Drian echoed those comments: "We're waiting for Iranian authorities to take the final difficult decisions to allow for the revival of the 2015 nuclear deal," he said. (Additional reporting by Francois Murphy in Vienna Editing by Richard Lough, Toby Chopra, Peter Graff)
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