UN Nuclear Inspectors End Iran Trip Short Ahead of Vienna Talks
(Bloomberg) -- United Nations nuclear inspectors ended talks with Iran’s top diplomat Tuesday that stopped short of fully resolving concerns over access to sensitive atomic sites and could weigh on the Islamic Republic’s negotiations with world powers that resume next week.
Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian and International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi pledged to cooperate in resolving “technical issues” in the coming months, according to a statement from Iran’s Foreign Ministry following their meeting in Tehran Tuesday.
Iran also expressed its “serious will to engage constructively” with the nuclear watchdog, but said the IAEA “should avoid taking political positions” over the country’s nuclear program.
Grossi, who said his visit to Tehran signaled a “willingness to talk and understand each other,” is set fly back to Vienna, where he’s expected to brief IAEA diplomats convening this week to discuss Iran’s nuclear program.
The UN nuclear chief earlier met with the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Mohammad Eslami.
IAEA inspectors reported this month that Iran continues stonewalling attempts to explain the source of decades-old uranium traces detected at undeclared locations. Iran’s also prevented monitors from mounting surveillance equipment at a centrifuge workshop and is alleged to have intimidated some inspectors by imposing excessive security measures following last year’s sabotage of a uranium-enrichment plant.
Western diplomats have warned for months that Iran’s lack of cooperation with inspectors could result in a resolution of censure, a move that has the potential to send the country’s nuclear case back to the UN Security Council.
Iran says such a measure would reduce the already dwindling possibility of reviving its landmark 2015 nuclear accord, known as the JCPOA, with China, France, Germany, Russia, the U.K. and U.S.
That agreement curbed Iran’s nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief until the Trump administration withdrew from the deal and reimposed penalties in 2018.
Facing new sanctions that choked its economy, Iran retaliated by breaking limits on uranium enrichment and restricting IAEA access to some of its facilities. One of the central features of the JCPOA had been the unprecedented access it gave to international monitors.
The standoff fueled regional tensions between Iran and its rivals in the Persian Gulf, which witnessed a spate of attacks on international shipping.
After months of delays, diplomats will gather in Vienna Nov. 29 for a seventh round of talks designed to revive the nuclear accord. Earlier attempts were bogged down by Iranian insistence that the U.S. provide guarantees it won’t again withdraw from the deal, a promise that White House negotiators say they cannot make.
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