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UN nuclear chief to visit Tehran to discuss inspections

Efforts are being made to revive the nuclear deal. [Getty]

Date of publication: 17 February, 2021

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The International Atomic Energy Agency will visit Tehran to discuss inspections of nuclear facilities amid efforts to restart the nuclear deal.

The head of the UN nuclear watchdog will travel to Iran this weekend in an effort to find a “mutually agreeable solution” that allows it to continue its inspections in the country, the organization said Wednesday.

The International Atomic Energy Agency said that Director General Rafael Grossi will visit Tehran on Saturday for discussions with senior Iranian officials, whom it did not identify.

It said the aim is “to find a mutually agreeable solution for the IAEA to continue essential verification activities in the country."

Grossi's trip comes amid diplomatic efforts to keep alive the 2015 deal between Iran and world powers, which has been fraying since the US under then-President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the deal in 2018.

Tehran has been using its violations of the deal to put pressure on the remaining signatories — France, Germany, Britain, Russia and China — to provide more incentives to Iran to offset crippling American sanctions re-imposed after the US pullout.

The ultimate goal of the deal is to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear bomb, something it insists it does not want to do.

President Joe Biden has said he will seek to revive the deal, but insisted that Iran must first reverse its nuclear steps, creating a contest of wills. Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said earlier this month that the US must lift all sanctions if it wants Iran to live up to commitments.

Iran says it will stop part of the inspection of its nuclear facilities by the IAEA next week if the West doesn't implement its own commitments.

On Monday, Kazem Gharibabadi, Iran’s ambassador to the IAEA, said he had sent a letter to the agency detailing restrictions on inspectors to take effect on 23 February.

He said Iran would cease to adhere to the so-called Additional Protocol, an arrangement that provides the IAEA broad access and information regarding Iran’s nuclear program, including both declared and undeclared facilities.

Following the killing of a prominent Iranian nuclear scientist last fall, Iran’s parliament passed a law that vowed to restrict access of UN watchdog inspectors if the sanctions imposed on its oil and banking sectors are not lifted.

Read more: What will happen to US 'maximum pressure' on Iran after the election?

Grossi last week offered to travel to Iran in view of the proposed changes, which the agency said “would have a serious impact on the IAEA’s verification and monitoring activities in the country.”

On Thursday, the French, German and British foreign ministers plan to discuss Iran at a meeting in Paris and hold a videoconference with new US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

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