U.N. nuclear chief says Iran to grant 'less access' to program

VIENNA – The United States’ nuclear watchdog has said it has reached an agreement with Iran to cushion the moves Tehran plans to take this week, including ending the rush inspections. Both sides agree to maintain the “necessary” surveillance for up to three months.

The announcement by the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Grossi, made at Vienna Airport on Sunday after a weekend trip to Iran, confirmed that Tehran will continue its plan to cut cooperation with the agency on Tuesday.

Iran has gradually violated the terms of a 2015 nuclear pact with world powers since the United States resigned and re-imposed sanctions in 2018 under former President Donald Trump. The pact aims to prevent Iran from making nuclear weapons, which Tehran says it never wanted to build.

President Joe Biden has said he is ready to speak about the return of both nations to the agreement, although both sides have divided over who will take the first step.

A key part of Iran’s plan to reduce cooperation this week is to end the implementation of the Additional Protocol, which gives the IAEA the right to conduct rapid inspections of member states at sites that have not been reported to the agency. Iran had agreed to implement the protocol under the 2015 nuclear deal.

“This law exists. This law is in effect, which means that, much to my regret, the Additional Protocol will be suspended,” Grossi told the airport press conference.

Before speaking, the IAEA and Iran issued a joint statement saying Tehran will continue to implement the Comprehensive Security Agreement, its core commitments to the agency that allow monitoring of its declared nuclear facilities.

The IAEA will also “continue the necessary review and monitoring activities for up to three months,” the statement said, without specifying what the activities are.

Grossi said the steps Iran will take this week will be “moderated to some extent” by the terms of this new, temporary deal.

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“What we have agreed is something that can be done. It is useful to fill this gap in order to save the situation now. But for a stable, sustainable situation there has to be a political negotiation, which is not up to me. ” “Grossi said this creates a window for talks on bailing out the nuclear deal.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who helped achieve the nuclear deal under President Hassan Rouhani, said the IAEA would be prevented from accessing footage from its cameras at nuclear sites. That came during a state television interview on Sunday before his meeting with Grossi.

“This is not a deadline for the world. This is not an ultimatum, ”Zarif told the government-run English language broadcaster Press TV. “This is an internal domestic matter between parliament and the government.”

“We have a democracy. We are supposed to implement the laws of the country. And Parliament passed laws – whether we like it or not. “

The General Director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Grossi, on Sunday at Vienna International Airport. Lisi Niesner / Reuters

Zarif’s comments marked the highest recognition yet of what Iran was up to when it stopped following the so-called Additional Protocol.

As part of the protocol with Iran, the IAEA collects and analyzes “hundreds of thousands of images every day taken by its sophisticated surveillance cameras,” the agency said in 2017. The agency also stated at the time that “2,000 tamper-evident seals were affixed to nuclear material have and equipment. “

In his interview, Zarif said the authorities were “legally obliged not to make the tapes from these cameras available”.

Grossi did not respond to Zarif’s camera remarks on Sunday evening.

The Iranian parliament passed a law in December to suspend some of the inspections of its nuclear facilities by the United States if the European signatories do not grant relief on oil and banking sanctions by Tuesday.

The deal with the IAEA has created a domestic divide in Iran, with lawmakers accusing the government of failing to comply with the law passed in parliament last year. The dispute has now been referred to the Iranian judiciary by parliament.

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