IAEA Chief Due in Tehran as Nuclear Deal Seems Imminent

IAEA Chief Due in Tehran as Nuclear Deal Seems Imminent
IAEA Chief Due in Tehran as Nuclear Deal Seems Imminent

Head of the International Atomic Energy Agency Rafael Grossi was set to visit Tehran on Saturday to meet Iranian officials as talks on the revival of the 2015 nuclear deal in Vienna, Austria, appear to be nearing a conclusion. 
He is expected to address reporters when he returns from Iran to Vienna late March 5, the IAEA said.
Grossi’s trip is thought to be in connection with initiatives to resolve safeguards issues between Iran and the agency, which have become a major cause for the slow progress of the Vienna talks, according to Nour News. 
“If Grossi’s trip could help the agency and Tehran to reach a roadmap to resolve existing safeguard issues, one could be upbeat about the removal of one of the important obstacles to reaching an agreement in Vienna negotiations,” the news agency said in a report. 
The IAEA has been seeking to resolve questions about nuclear material that the Vienna-based agency suspects Iran failed to declare, an obstacle to reaching an agreement to revive the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. 
The IAEA has allegedly found particles of processed uranium at three apparently old sites that Iran never declared and has repeatedly said Tehran has not provided satisfactory answers.
Iran wants the IAEA investigation ended as part of an agreement in Vienna talks, but Western powers have argued that issue is beyond the scope of the 2015 deal, to which the IAEA is not a party.
The IAEA Board of Governors is due to meet starting March 7, where western countries might censure Iran for what they call stonewalling IAEA requests for answers without a deal on restoring the nuclear deal. 
Iran has also been exceeding the limits of the JCPOA since 2019, in reaction to the United States’ unilateral withdrawal and reimposition of tough sanctions in 2018.  
The countermeasures included surpassing caps on the amount and level of uranium enrichment, as well as restricting IAEA inspections. 
In its confidential quarterly report, the agency told member nations that Iran has an estimated 33.2 kilograms of uranium enriched to up to 60% fissile purity, but said it was unable to verify the exact size of the stockpile due to limitations Tehran imposed on IAEA inspectors last year. 
In return for sanctions relief, the 2015 nuclear deal cut Iran’s enrichment capacity and prohibited enrichment above low level of 5% for energy use, and other measures.
It is said, now, that Iran’s 33.2 kg stockpile is around three-quarters of the amount needed, if enriched further, for a nuclear bomb according to a common yardstick.
Iran has long denied an ambition for building weapons of mass destruction, maintaining that its nuclear program is exclusively for peaceful purposes.
It also says all its nuclear advancements can be reversed to conform to the JCPOA once its legitimate demands are met. 



Final Critical Steps 

Vienna talks, which have been underway since April, have made significant progress and there is talks of an imminent ministerial meeting, although key bones of contention still remain. 
“We are close to a possible deal,” US State Department’s principal deputy spokesperson, Jalina Porter, told reporters on Friday, but cautioned that unsolved issues remained and that time was of the essence given the pace of Iran’s nuclear advances.
Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman stressed that “premature good news does not substitute good agreement.” 
“Nobody can say the deal is done, until all the outstanding remaining issues are resolved,” he tweeted, adding that extra efforts are needed and everybody is now focused on the final critical steps.
The European Union coordinator of the talks, Enrique Mora, said the talks are at the final stages. 
“Some relevant issues are still open and success is never guaranteed in such a complex negotiation,” he said on Twitter. 
He added that the coordinator’s team is doing its best, “but we are definitely not there yet.”
Russia’s envoy, Mikhail Ulyanov, who in public has been the most optimistic participant in the 11 months of talks, also said there are some issues that need to be finalized. 
“The outstanding issues are relatively small, but not yet settled,” he said. 
He told reporters, however, that he did not believe the talks would now collapse and a ministerial meeting— typically where a deal would be blessed—was likely but he could not say if it would be on Saturday, Sunday or Monday.
In addition to the safeguards issue, other recent sticking points in Vienna are thought to have involved Iran’s request that the US lift one of the designations of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, and some form of economic guarantees or compensation if the US would quit the deal again.

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