Western powers drop censure plan as Iran agrees to IAEA talks

Iran agrees to cooperate with international experts regarding uranium particles discovered at several of its sites.

The Iranian flag waves outside of the UN building that hosts the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, office inside in Vienna, Austria, Wednesday, July 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak)
Iran has ramped up uranium enrichment and limited IAEA access to its sites in recent months [File: Ronald Zak/ AP Photo]

Tehran, Iran – Western powers have backed off from an effort to censure Iran at the global nuclear watchdog as Iran agreed to cooperate with international experts regarding uranium particles found at several of its sites.

Iran’s foreign ministry credited “intense diplomatic efforts” by Tehran and all other participants to its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers for stopping a European and American-backed resolution at the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The United States, which unilaterally withdrew from the nuclear deal in 2018, had initially backed a plan by Germany, the United Kingdom and France – together known as the E3 – to introduce a resolution to condemn Iran’s reduction of commitments under the deal.

“Today’s development can maintain the path of diplomacy opened by Iran and the agency and create the grounds for the full implementation of commitments by all JCPOA parties,” foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said, referencing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

“Iran hopes that JCPOA participants can guarantee the full implementation of the JCPOA by all sides by using this opportunity and through serious cooperation.”

In spite of admitting that former President Donald Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign of harsh economic sanctions has failed, President Joe Biden has so far refused to lift sanctions, saying Iran must come back to full compliance first.

Iran, which started scaling back commitments one year after Trump left the deal, has in recent months ramped up uranium enrichment and limited IAEA access to its sites to comply with a December law passed by its conservative parliament after a top nuclear scientist was assassinated.

Iran recently rejected a European offer for unofficial talks with the US as a “guest” because it says the US must first lift sanctions since it first left its commitments under the deal, after which Iran will immediately honour all its commitments.

President Hassan Rouhani on Thursday reiterated that stance, advising the US against wasting time on the nuclear deal.

“Wasting time and deferring things to another day will not benefit anyone. If time is wasted and the opportunity is lost, the US will be directly responsible,” he said.

Technical talks in April

IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi announced in a news conference on Thursday that it has come to an agreement with Iran to hold more technical talks in April in Tehran.

He said Iran has welcomed the nuclear watchdog’s offer to “engage in a focused and systematic effort” to discuss uranium particles found at several sites that for a time Iran had barred the IAEA from entering.

In August 2020, after Grossi made his first trip to Tehran, the IAEA was granted access to the sites.

He said on Thursday that Iran’s explanation for the particles found at the sites has not been “technically credible” and it felt like the two sides have been “talking past each other” since, something the talks in April are hoped to resolve.

The latest agreement comes as Iran and the IAEA reached an agreement in February that could prove vital to preserving the nuclear deal.

As per the parliament law, the Rouhani administration stopped voluntarily implementing the Additional Protocol, a document that provides the IAEA with broad inspection capabilities.

However, the government agreed to keep the tapes of camera surveillance of its sites running for three months. If the US lifts sanctions in that period, the tapes will be handed over to the IAEA, or else they will be destroyed.

Abolfazl Amouei, the spokesman for the National Security and Foreign Policy Commission of the parliament, said earlier this week that Iran’s suspension of the Additional Protocol reduces IAEA inspections by about 30 percent.

Grossi also said on Thursday that the IAEA has “no additional information” on Iran producing uranium metal, another move that is barred under the nuclear deal.

Last month, a confidential IAEA report leaked to the media said Iran has produced a small amount of uranium metal at a facility in Isfahan.

But unconfirmed local reports in recent days have said Rouhani has ordered the production to stop in an effort to leave the way for diplomacy open.

Source: Al Jazeera

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