Washington(AFP) – Time is running out for nuclear talks with Iran, according to a senior US official, who urged Tehran to agree to direct discussions to help create a deal.

The person, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Iran’s nuclear programme was on the verge of “breakout” toward nuclear weapons capacity, with just “weeks” to achieve an agreement that would halt the programme and lift sanctions on the nation.

“I believe we’ve reached a stage when all sides must make some of the most crucial political decisions,” the person said, referring to the discussions to resuscitate the 2015 deal between Iran, the United States, the United Kingdom, China, France, Germany, and Russia.

“If our aim is to achieve an agreement swiftly… in any discussion, the best way to do that is for the parties with the most at stake to meet directly,” the official said, referring to the US and Iran.

“From the beginning, we’ve maintained that we’re willing to meet with Iran if they’re willing to meet with us.”

Iran’s enrichment programme, according to the official, is extremely near to creating enough fissile material for a nuclear bomb.

“And how little time is left, given how essential… the choices that need to be taken,” the person added, it would be “very terrible” if the two parties did not have direct conversations.

Last week, the latest round of discussions in Vienna to save the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, were halted, with the European Union’s coordinator pleading for “political decisions” to break the impasse.

The initial agreement exempted Iran from sanctions in return for restrictions on its nuclear development.

However, once the United States withdrew and reimposed sanctions in 2018, Iran substantially increased its nuclear operations.

The presidency of Joe Biden aided the renewal of the talks, although Washington has only been involved in an indirect way, leaving the Europeans to meet with the Iranians.

Iran for the first time announced it was open to direct talks with the US a week ago, and the US subsequently proclaimed itself ready to have talks “immediately.”

According to a US official, not all of the terms of a prospective deal have been ironed out.

“However, we are ready to make such decisions,” the official stated.

“If those decisions are taken and done swiftly, we can see a route to an agreement.”

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