November 29, 2021

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UN nuclear chief to visit Tehran Monday: Iran atomic agency

The head of the UN nuclear watchdog will visit Tehran Monday to discuss Iran’s nuclear programme, the spokesman for Iran’s atomic agency said, as several key dates approach.

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Rafael Grossi had expressed concern on November 12 over the lack of contact with the Iranian government, describing it as “astonishing”.

He said he had hoped to meet Iranian officials ahead of the next meeting of the IAEA’s Board of Governors, which was scheduled for next week.

“I have not had any contact with this government… that has been there for more than five months,” Grossi told reporters at the time, adding that the only exceptions had been “technical conversations” with Iran’s new atomic energy chief Mohamed Eslami.

Iran responded three days later by inviting the UN nuclear chief to Tehran.

The head of the agency “will arrive on the evening of Monday, November 22 in Tehran”, Iran’s atomic agency spokesman told Fars news agency Wednesday.

Grossi will meet Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and the head of Iran’s atomic agency, Mohamed Eslami on Tuesday, the spokesman added.

Grossi’s last visit to Tehran was in September, when he clinched a deal on access to monitoring equipment at Iran’s nuclear facilities.

But days later, the IAEA complained that it was prevented from “indispensible” access to a unit at the TESA complex in the city of Karaj, near Tehran, in violation of the September deal.

Iran’s ambassador to the IAEA however rejected the charge, tweeting that “equipment related to this complex are not included for servicing”, referring to IAEA work on its monitoring equipment.

The IAEA on Wednesday “categorically” denied its cameras played a part in a June attack on the TESA complex, after Tehran said it was investigating the possibility.

Grossi’s visit next week comes ahead of the resumption on November 29 of nuclear talks in Vienna, stalled since June.

The talks aim to restore a 2015 deal that offered Tehran relief from sanctions in exchange for major curbs on its nuclear activities.

The US unilaterally pulled out of the deal in 2018 under the administration of president Donald Trump.

In response, Iran began in 2019 walking back on its commitments under the nuclear deal, notably increasing its uranium enrichment.

President Ebrahim Raisi said Tuesday that Iran is “absolutely serious” about the nuclear talks, in a phone call with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.

Raisi added that Iran is “equally serious about our people’s rights to have sanctions lifted”.

His foreign minister had earlier called on the West not to make “excessive demands” on Tehran in the talks, in a call with his Russian counterpart.

The Vienna talks will be attended by the remaining parties to the deal — Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia — while the US will participate in negotiations indirectly.


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