TEHRAN, Iran (AP) – Iran will begin offering UN inspectors “less access” to its nuclear program as part of its lobbying campaign on the West, though investigators will still be able to monitor Tehran’s work, the chief of the government said. UN atomic watchdog. Sunday.
Rafael Grossi’s comments came after an emergency trip to Iran in which he said the International Atomic Energy Agency reached a “technical understanding” with Tehran to continue to allow monitoring of its nuclear program for up to three months. But his comments to journalists underscored an increasingly narrow window for the United States and others to reach a deal with Iran, which is already enriching and storing uranium at levels far beyond those allowed by its 2015 nuclear deal with the powers. worldwide.
“The hope of the IAEA has been to stabilize a situation that was very unstable,” Grossi said at the airport after arriving in Vienna, where the agency is based. “I think this technical understanding makes it so that other political consultations can take place at other levels and, most importantly, we can avoid a situation where, in practical terms, we would have been flying blind.”
Grossi, the IAEA director general, offered some details of the agreement he had reached with Iranian leaders. He said that the number of inspectors on the ground will remain the same, but that “what changes is the type of activity” that the agency was able to carry out, without giving further details. He stressed that the follow-up will continue “in a satisfactory manner”.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who during Hassan Rouhani’s presidency helped reach the atomic deal, said the IAEA will not be able to access images from its cameras at nuclear sites. That happened during an interview on state television on Sunday, even before his meeting with Grossi.
“This is not a deadline for the world. This is not an ultimatum, “Zarif told the government-run Press TV in English. “This is an internal internal problem between parliament and the government.”
“We have a democracy. We are supposed to implement the laws of the country. And the parliament passed legislation, whether we like it or not. ”
Zarif’s comments marked the highest-level recognition yet of what Iran planned to do when it stopped following the so-called “Additional Protocol,” a confidential agreement between Tehran and the IAEA reached as part of the landmark 2015 nuclear deal. The IAEA it has additional protocols with various countries that it oversees.
Under the protocol with Iran, the IAEA “collects and analyzes hundreds of thousands of images captured daily by its sophisticated surveillance cameras,” the agency said in 2017. The agency also said at the time that it had placed “2,000 tamper-evident stamps on material. nuclear AND equipment. “
In his interview, Zarif said that the authorities would be “obliged by law not to provide the tapes of those cameras.” It was not immediately clear if that also meant the cameras would be turned off completely, as Zarif called it a “technical decision, which is not a political decision.”
“The IAEA certainly won’t get images from those cameras,” Zarif said.
Grossi did not address Zarif’s chamber comments Sunday night, but stressed that European and US leaders need to salvage the situation through negotiations.
“What we have agreed is something viable. It is useful to close this gap, ”Grossi said. “Save this situation now, but, of course, for a stable and sustainable situation there will have to be a political negotiation and that does not depend on me.”
There are 18 nuclear facilities and nine other locations in Iran under IAEA safeguards.
In 2018, then-President Donald Trump unilaterally pulled the United States out of the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, saying it needed to be renegotiated.
Even as Iran has since backed away from the deal’s restrictions to pressure the other signatories – Germany, France, Britain, Russia, and China – to provide new economic incentives to offset US sanctions, those countries have insisted that it is essential to keep the bargaining alive so that inspectors can continue to verify Iran’s nuclear activities.
From Washington, US national security adviser Jake Sullivan said that President Joe Biden remained willing to negotiate with Iran for a return to the nuclear deal, an offer Zarif previously rejected.
“He is ready to go to the table to talk to the Iranians about how we regain strict restrictions on their nuclear program,” Sullivan told CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “That offer still stands, because we believe diplomacy is the best way to do it.”
On US citizens detained by Iran, Sullivan added: “We have started communicating with the Iranians on this issue.”
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh told state television late Sunday in response to Sullivan that “there are no direct talks between Iran and the United States in any field.” However, Khatibzadeh said the Swiss Embassy in Tehran, which has been on the lookout for American interests in the decades since the 1979 hostage crisis, has carried messages between countries on prisoner issues since Biden took office.
Grossi met early Sunday with Ali Akbar Salehi, head of Iran’s civilian nuclear program.
Iran’s parliament passed a bill in December that would suspend some of the UN inspections of its nuclear facilities if European signatories fail to provide relief from oil and banking sanctions by Tuesday.
Iran has already slowly moved away from all the limitations of the nuclear deal on its uranium arsenal and has begun to enrich itself by as much as 20%., a technical step away from weapons grade levels. It has also started spinning advanced centrifuges banned by the deal, which saw Iran limit its program in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.
A growing series of incidents since Trump’s withdrawal has threatened the broader Middle East. More than a year ago, a US drone strike killed a senior Iranian general, prompting Tehran to launch ballistic missiles that wounded dozens of US troops in Iraq.
A mysterious explosion also hit the Natanz nuclear facility in Iran, which Iran has described as sabotage. In November, Iranian scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, who founded the country’s military nuclear program some two decades earlier, was assassinated. in an attack Tehran blames Israel.
Zarif mentioned the attacks in his interview with state television and said the IAEA must keep some of his information confidential for security reasons.
“Some of them may have security ramifications for Iran, whose peaceful nuclear sites have come under attack,” Zarif said. “For a country whose nuclear scientists have been killed in terrorist operations in the past, and now recently with Mr. Fakhrizadeh, confidentiality is essential.”
Jon Gambrell reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and David Rising from Berlin. Associated Press journalist Zeke Miller contributed to this report from Washington.