Iran suggested ending a nuclear standoff may be crucial for Tehran and Washington to coordinate against Iraqi militants, the New York Times reports.
Reaching a deal on Iran's weapon-usable atomic activities is a "test for confidence building" that could lead to "opportunities for other issues," Mohammad Nahavandian, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani's chief of staff, said on Wednesday. Iran insists its nuclear program is peaceful, but the country is discussing potential limits on the effort in exchange for sanctions relief from China, France, Russia, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Nahavandian's remark appeared to reference Iraq, where Iran and the United States this week discussed potential nonmilitary collaboration to counter military gains by extremists, according to the Times.
The U.S. State Department, though, said any attempt to connect the nuclear dispute with other regional issues "is a nonstarter."
"We have been clear about this since the start of our negotiations over the nuclear program," spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters.
Still, a European diplomat said developments in Iraq may provide Tehran with "desperately needed leverage."
"They clearly think the American fear of getting sucked back into Iraq may be just the thing, at just the right moment," the insider said.
Progress in the nuclear talks appeared slow on Thursday, as participants began hammering out potential language for a long-term accord, Agence France-Presse reports.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said "fundamental differences" persisted between negotiators, and a Western envoy added there has been little Iranian "evolution" on matters dividing the sides.
Iran, though, appeared to drop a demand for any long-term deal to eliminate all sanctions at once, rather than in stages, the Los Angeles Times reported on Wednesday.
According to certain insiders, Beijing and Moscow have joined Western governments in urging Iran to accept fewer uranium-enrichment centrifuges, al-Monitor reported. Diplomats have appeared deadlocked on the systems, which can generate fuel for civilian purposes as well as nuclear bombs.