VIENNA, Austria (AFP) — The United Nations (UN) nuclear watchdog chief announced Sunday a “temporary solution” to allow Iranian facility inspections to continue after days of talks with officials, giving some much-needed breathing space for diplomatic negotiations.
However, Rafael Grossi admitted that under the new three-month arrangement, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) would not have the same level of access after a law comes into force on Tuesday limiting some inspections.
Grossi’s visit to Iran came amid stepped-up efforts between US President Joe Biden’s administration, European powers and Tehran to salvage the 2015 nuclear deal that has been on the brink of collapse since Donald Trump withdrew from it and went on to impose sanctions on the nation.
In December, Iran’s conservative-dominated parliament passed the law demanding a suspension of some inspections if the United States failed to lift sanctions by this Sunday.
Tehran had notified the UN body that if the suspensions were lifted it would suspend “voluntary transparency measures” — notably inspections to non-nuclear sites, including military sites suspected of nuclear-related activity.
Grossi said that under the new “temporary technical understanding… there is less access, let’s face it.”
“But still we were able to retain the necessary degree of monitoring and verification work,” he added.
“What we agreed is something that is viable — it is useful to bridge this gap that we are having now, it salvages the situation now,” Grossi told reporters after landing back in Vienna.
Under the temporary agreement Tehran will for “three months record and keep the information of some activities and monitoring equipment,” Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization said.
“During this period, the IAEA will not have access to this information,” the statement said, appearing to confirm comments from Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif that the law mandates the government to “not provide the tapes” of cameras at sites to the IAEA.
“If the sanctions are completely lifted within three months, Iran will provide this information to the IAEA, otherwise the information will be deleted forever,” the statement added.
Zarif had signaled the Islamic republic wanted to avoid an “impasse” over inspections, but also warned it could further step away from its commitments if Washington does not lift sanctions.
Grossi had said earlier his hope in visiting Tehran was “to stabilize a situation which was very unstable.”