IAEA head Grossi visits Iran for nuclear talks

Nuclear watchdog head Rafael Grossi said the talks could help restore the nuclear deal between Iran and several Western countries.

Head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization Mohammad Eslami and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Grossi arrive at a news conference
The head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization Mohammad Eslami and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Grossi arrive at a news conference, in Tehran, Iran, on March 4, 2023 [Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via Reuters]

Tehran, Iran – The head of the global nuclear watchdog is holding talks in Tehran in an effort to reach an understanding with Iran on nuclear safeguard issues that could also affect the country’s 2015 nuclear deal, which collapsed in 2018.

Rafael Grossi, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), landed in the Iranian capital on Friday evening and met with Mohammad Eslami, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI).

The two continued their talks on Saturday and also held a joint press conference.

Grossi then met with foreign minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, before meeting with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi.

Raisi “presented cooperation as a two-sided affair which can continue based on maintaining the independence of the agency and realising the rights of the Iranian people,” the president’s deputy for political affairs, Mohammad Jamshidi, said.

Grossi is expected to hold another press conference when he returns to Vienna later on Saturday.

The trip, the first in months, comes days ahead of the IAEA’s next Board of Governors meeting on Monday, where there is a chance the United States and its European allies could pursue another resolution to censure Iran.

Amid reports that it has opposed a European push for another resolution, Washington has said it will wait for the results of Grossi’s trips to decide its next move.

Eslami told reporters on Saturday that Tehran will announce a response if the Western parties to the nuclear deal decide to move ahead with what would be their third resolution in the past year.

Iran boosted its nuclear enrichment efforts and curbed IAEA monitoring in response to the previous two resolutions.

The agency confirmed last week that traces of uranium enriched to the near-weapons grade level of 84 percent have been found in Iran and that it will need to discuss this further with Tehran.

Iranian officials have said the fact that “particles” of higher-enriched materials have been found does not mean it is actively enriching beyond its declared 60 percent level, something Eslami reiterated on Saturday.

“We are committed to our safeguards agreement with the agency and we won’t allow any elements or actions to undermine this cooperation, so our work will continue and we won’t allow any non-compliance to cause a lack of trust,” Eslami said during the press conference.

Grossi said work on several issues, including unexplained materials found several years ago in three Iranian sites, is continuing and results can only be confirmed at the end of the talks.

“What we do here and the agreement we are trying to reach could help with restoring the JCPOA,” he said, referencing the official name of the nuclear accord, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

The nuclear deal was signed in 2015, but Washington unilaterally withdrew from it in 2018 and imposed harsh sanctions on Iran, which gradually abandoned its limits, including a 3.67 percent cap on enrichment.

Efforts to restore or renegotiate the deal have stalled in the past year.

Tehran maintains that its nuclear programme is strictly peaceful and it does not seek a nuclear weapon.

Source: Al Jazeera