By Arshad Mohammed

(Reuters) – The United States and Iran are not discussing an interim nuclear deal, a U.S. official said on Monday, but Washington has told Tehran steps that could trigger a crisis and also steps that can create a better climate between the countries long term. antagonists

“There are no talks on an interim agreement,” said the US official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

His comment went further than a denial by the United States last week, which called a report that nations were moving closer to an interim agreement “false and misleading” and said reports of such an agreement were “false” but not He denied the possibility of talks about one.

The official did not deny media reports of recent contacts between the United States and Iran, instead saying that suggestions that it was an interim nuclear deal were inaccurate.

“We have made it clear to them what escalation measures they should avoid to prevent a crisis and what de-escalation measures they can take to create a more positive context,” he said, declining to detail this, but noted that Washington would like to see more Iranian cooperation with the UN nuclear watchdog.

US and European officials have been looking for ways to curb Tehran’s nuclear program since the breakdown last year of proxy US-Iran talks over the revival of the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and major powers.

Under that deal, aimed at preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, Tehran limited its nuclear program and agreed to broader UN inspections in exchange for the relaxation of UN, US and EU sanctions.

Then-US President Donald Trump left the pact in 2018 and reimposed US sanctions, prompting Tehran to go beyond the deal’s nuclear restrictions and reigniting US fears. US, Europe and Israel that Iran can search for an atomic bomb.

Iran denies such ambition.

While the US official declined to go into details, the latest US messages to Iran appeared to be aimed at damage control.

The Biden administration has repeatedly said that it will not allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon and that all options are on the table, which is diplomatic language for the possibility of a military strike.

(Reporting by Arshad Mohammed in Washington; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

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