Iran Nuclear Inspectors Say Monitoring Pact Is Back on Track

The global nuclear watchdog said Monday that its surveillance of Iran’s atomic program is back on track after talks yielded a compromise with the country’s new government. 

The International Atomic Energy Agency struck a pact with Tehran over the weekend that allows monitors to replace damaged surveillance cameras and memory cards at Iranian atomic sites. The agreement avoids a sharp escalation in decades-long tensions over Iran’s nuclear activity and offers diplomats hoping to revive a 2015 multiparty agreement that curbed the program more time.    

Energy traders have been watching developments closely as a resumption of the deal with world powers could unleash additional gas and oil onto markets. A return to the accord will also help calm the Middle East, where the nuclear standoff between Iran and the U.S. has helped fuel conflict.

Cameras installed at Iranian workshops will be serviced in the coming days, IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said Monday at a press conference in Vienna. His inspectors have access to cameras “as often as is required” at Iran’s primary uranium-enrichment facilities and can view footage in “the amount that we need,” he said. Monitors can also increase the frequency of audits on Iran’s uranium stockpile.

The Argentine diplomat returned late Sunday from a trip to Tehran, where he held talks with Iran’s new atomic chief, Mohammad Eslami. Grossi will meet again with Eslami, a veteran of Iran’s defense industry, during the IAEA’s annual general conference the week of Sept. 20. 

While the pact to ensure surveillance data isn’t lost at Iranian centrifuge workshops and uranium mines stops short of fully restoring the expanded access for IAEA monitors granted under the 2015 accord, it reduces the likelihood of a formal censure against Iran at this week’s IAEA board of governors meeting

And it effectively gives diplomats three more months, until the next board meeting in November, to at least make progress toward reviving the landmark atomic deal that the Trump administration jettisoned three years ago. Iran subsequently began accelerating its nuclear work in response to renewed U.S. economic sanctions.  

Iran is yet to signal when it will return to the negotiations, also held in Vienna, which were halted before the country elected an ultraconservative cleric as its president in June.

Iran Nuclear Inspectors Say Monitoring Pact Is Back on Track

Grossi said late Sunday he sent a “complementary message” to the IAEA’s board about Iran’s responsiveness, suggesting that formal censure may not be needed at this time. Heading into the week, some European nations still held open the possibility of a rebuke that could eventually send Iran back to the UN Security Council. 

“These things aren’t going away,” Grossi said, referring to his investigators’ ongoing probe into decades-old uranium traces found at several undeclared sites. “There are there and we have to address them together.”

Grossi said he expects to return to Tehran to speak with senior leadership in the near future. 

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