2 min read.Updated: 24 Nov 2021, 05:11 PM ISTLaurence Norman, The Wall Street Journal
Talks between the IAEA and Iran continue
The head of the United Nations atomic watchdog agency left Iran late Tuesday after failing to reach a deal to allow inspectors access to a factory making equipment for Tehran’s nuclear program, diplomats said Wednesday, casting a fresh shadow over international nuclear talks set for next week.
The Wall Street Journal reported last week that the factory, in Karaj, Iran, had resumed producing key parts for centrifuges, which are used to enrich uranium, without any monitoring by the International Atomic Energy Agency. The diplomats said talks between the IAEA and Iran were continuing.
With Iran, the U.S. and other major powers set to resume negotiations in Vienna next Monday aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear capabilities, that raised new concerns among Western officials that Iran could diverting nuclear equipment to a possible future covert nuclear weapons program.
Iran says its nuclear program is purely peaceful. There was no immediate comment from Iran on the outcome of the visit.
IAEA Director-General Rafael Grossi traveled to Tehran on Monday for meetings with senior Iranian officials. He hoped to win access for his inspectors to go to Karaj and restore agency cameras that had been removed after an explosion at the plant in June. Iran has blamed Israel for the blast. Israel has neither confirmed nor denied involvement.
Two diplomats said Iran declined to offer the agency access to Karaj unless Mr. Grossi dropped parts of a continuing IAEA probe into the discovery of undisclosed nuclear material in Iran over the past two years. Mr. Grossi declined.
Diplomats said talks between the IAEA and Iran continued overnight and continue to try to reach an agreement which could unlock access to Karaj.
Speaking to the IAEA Board of Governors on Wednesday, Mr. Grossi reiterated that Iran hadn’t yet given the agency access to Karaj, despite a Sept. 12 deal that was supposed to allow inspectors to reset cameras and other equipment at Iranian nuclear-related sites. Iran says the agreement didn’t include Karaj.
“This is seriously affecting the agency’s ability to restore continuity of knowledge at the workshop, which has been widely recognized as essential in relation to a return to the" 2015 nuclear deal, Mr. Grossi said.
He also said his discussions in Tehran with Iran’s foreign minister and its nuclear agency chief on the agency’s nuclear material probe and Iran’s use of “excessively invasive physical searches" of inspectors were inconclusive.
“Despite my best efforts, these extensive negotiations and deliberations to address Iran’s outstanding safeguards issues…proved inconclusive," he said.
Mr. Grossi is scheduled to give a press conference later Wednesday on the sidelines of the IAEA’s Board of Governors meeting with member states.
One of the Biden administration’s top foreign-policy goals is reviving the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six major powers which placed strict, but temporary, restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activities in exchange for lifting most international sanctions.
However, U.S. officials have warned that time is running out to be able to rebuild the nuclear deal because of Iran’s ongoing nuclear activities. Iran has gradually breached most of the limits in the 2015 deal since former President Donald Trump took the U.S. out of the agreement in May 2018.