IAEA seeks "middle ground" with Iran before negotiations resume

Published on : 23/11/2021 – 20:59

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency Rafael Grossi said on Tuesday he was seeking “common ground” with Iran, amid Western concern over Tehran’s increase in its stockpile of highly enriched uranium in response to US sanctions.

Visiting Tehran, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Rafael Grossi said Tuesday evening, November 23, to seek “common ground” with the Islamic Republic. As negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program are about to resume, Westerners are worried about Iran’s increase in its stockpile of highly enriched uranium.

Rafael Grossi’s visit comes less than a week before the planned resumption in Vienna of negotiations to save the international Iran nuclear deal, suspended since June.

Arrived Monday evening in Tehran, the head of the nuclear gendarme met the head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization (OIEA), Mohammad Eslami, and the head of diplomacy, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian. The latter called not to politicize the discussions.

“Our work has been intense (…) We are continuing our negotiations in order to find common ground,” said Rafael Grossi during a press conference with the head of the OIEA. “We are also working on other subjects”, underlined the boss of the IAEA. “It’s very important to put everything in the perspective of Iran’s peaceful nuclear program,” which has always denied wanting to acquire nuclear weapons, he said.

In a brief statement, the OIEA for its part affirmed that “the establishment of a clear framework of cooperation between the OIEA and the IAEA was one of the main subjects of discussion between the two officials”.

Tehran calls on nuclear gendarme to “ignore political pressure”

Rafael Grossi also had during this visit his first meeting with Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, since the installation of the new government in August, after the presidential election won in June by the ultra-conservative Ebrahim Raïssi.

The foreign minister, who has the upper hand on the nuclear issue, called on the IAEA to avoid politicizing discussions around Iran’s nuclear program. “The agency must cooperate with Tehran within the framework of its technical functions and avoid taking political positions,” he said, according to a video posted on his ministry’s website.

“Our minister insisted on the importance of the technical and impartial work of the Agency, which must ignore foreign political pressures,” according to an official statement. “Iran and the IAEA have agreed to resolve over the coming months the technical issues that still need to be resolved between the two parties,” the text added.

Enrichment rate 12 times higher than authorized by the 2015 agreement

The move of the head of the agency comes after the IAEA last week reported a sharp increase in the stockpile of highly enriched uranium by Tehran.

According to a report from the UN body consulted by AFP, the amount of accumulated uranium now exceeds by more than twelve times the limit authorized by the 2015 agreement: it was thus estimated at the beginning of November at 2,489.7 kg.

Above all, Iran has exceeded the enrichment rate of 3.67% set by the nuclear agreement, initially rising to 20%: it now has 113.8 kg, against 84.3 kg at the end of August .

Then it crossed the unprecedented 60% threshold, approaching the 90% needed to make a bomb: it produced 17.7 kg, against 10 kg three months ago.

This report will be examined during the IAEA Board of Governors which opens on Wednesday November 24, a few days before the return on Monday November 29 of the negotiators to Vienna to try to save the 2015 agreement supposed to prevent Tehran from acquiring the ‘nuclear weapon. The United States will participate indirectly in the discussions.

The international Iranian nuclear agreement was concluded in 2015 in Vienna between Iran on the one hand and the United States, United Kingdom, China, Russia, France and Germany on the other. .

It offered Tehran the lifting of part of the international sanctions strangling its economy in exchange for a drastic reduction in its nuclear program, placed under strict UN control. But Washington unilaterally left the agreement in 2018 under President Donald Trump, and reinstated sanctions against Tehran. In return, Iran has gradually abandoned its commitments.

Current US President Joe Biden has said he is ready to return to the pact, on condition that Iran simultaneously revives restrictions on its nuclear program.

With AFP

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