VIENNA – The head of the United Nations nuclear watchdog on Wednesday warned his inspectors it was nearly impossible to “guarantee” that they knew the size of Iran’s stock of enriched uranium, a report said. apparent action after his trip to Tehran was fruitless.
Rafael Mariano Grossi’s words were in stark contrast to the upbeat tone his home team Iran had given the day before. They signal a tougher line by the Islamic Republic as fresh talks on Tehran’s tattered nuclear deal with world powers resume next week.
International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors are still unable to access surveillance footage and face greater challenges in trying to monitor Tehran’s rapidly growing uranium stockp , some of which are now enriched up to 60% purity – a short technical step compared to weapons grade of 90 percent.
Grossi told reporters in Vienna, where the IAEA is located, after speaking to the agency’s board of governors: “Our negotiations have not yielded convincing results, which means We can’t finish.” “I’m not giving up trying to find some kind of understanding, but for what we discussed yesterday, we can’t come to an agreement.”
Pressed on whether any progress has been made, Grossi said that “substance, no, quite clearly, we can’t make progress.” However, he said that getting to know new Iranian officials was “a positive factor” and “this will certainly help.”
But he warned: “We’re so close that I won’t be able to guarantee the continuity of knowledge.” He did not say clearly.
On Tuesday, Grossi visited the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, the country’s civilian nuclear agency, and met its new head, Mohammad Eslami. He also met with Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, who said Iran was determined to have a “constructive commitment” to the IAEA to “improve mutual trust and cooperation”, according to a report by state news agency IRNA .
Under the secret agreement known as the “Additional Protocol” with Iran, the IAEA collects and analyzes images from a series of surveillance cameras installed at Iran’s nuclear sites. Those cameras helped it monitor Tehran’s program to see if it was complying with the nuclear deal.
Iran’s hard-line parliament in December 2020 passed a bill that would partially suspend UN inspections of its nuclear facilities if European signatories failed to deliver banking and oil sanctions in February. Since February, the IAEA has not been able to access images from surveillance cameras.
Under the agreement, the IAEA also placed around 2,000 tamper-proof seals on nuclear materials and equipment. Those seals are communicated electronically with the inspectors. Automated measuring devices also provide real-time data from the program. Inspectors cannot access that data either, making the task of monitoring Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium much more difficult.
The agency also sought to monitor activities at a centrifugal parts production site near the northern city of Karaj. The IAEA has not had access to it since June after Iran said an Israeli sabotage attack significantly damaged the facility and an IAEA camera there.
Grossi on Wednesday emphasized that, although there has been no progress this week, a solution must still be found. “We have to come to an agreement,” he said. “We have to do it.”
Senior diplomats from Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia are scheduled to meet Iranian officials in Vienna on November 29 to discuss bringing Tehran back into compliance with the 2015 agreement. called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, to ease sanctions on Iran. to limit its nuclear program. The negotiations could pave the way for the United States to rejoin the accord.
The United States withdrew troops under former President Donald Trump and reimposed sanctions on Iran, prompting Tehran to waive all limits set by the agreement. That has raised tensions across the Mideast as Israel has warned that it will not allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons.
Iran has long insisted its program is peaceful, although the IAEA and US intelligence agencies say Tehran had an organized weapons program until 2003.
Meanwhile, on Wednesday, a deputy foreign minister and nuclear negotiator for Iran, Ali Bagheri Kani, traveled to the United Arab Emirates and met with a prominent Emirati diplomat , Anwar Gargash. The UAE’s state news agency WAM described the meeting as dealing with “regional and international developments of mutual interest.”