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Iran invites IAEA chief for talks before showdown with West

Director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Mariano Grossi speaks during a press conference in Vienna, Austria on June 07, 2021 [Aşkın Kıyağan / Anadolu Agency]
Director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Mariano Grossi speaks during a press conference in Vienna, Austria on June 07, 2021 [Aşkın Kıyağan / Anadolu Agency]

UN nuclear watchdog chief Rafael Grossi will fly to Tehran this weekend for talks that may ease a standoff between Iran and the West just as it risks escalating and scuppering negotiations on reviving the Iran nuclear deal, diplomats said on Saturday, reported Reuters.

Three diplomats who follow the International Atomic Energy Agency closely said Grossi's trip before next week's meeting of the IAEA's 35-nation board of governors was confirmed.

Others said they had yet to receive word of confirmation.

The IAEA was not immediately available for comment.

Two of the diplomats said Grossi was due to arrive in Tehran early on Sunday before meeting the new head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Mohammad Eslami.

The IAEA informed member states this week that there had been no progress on two central issues: explaining uranium traces found at several old, undeclared sites and getting urgent access to some monitoring equipment so the agency can continue to keep track of parts of Iran's nuclear programme as provided for by the 2015 deal.

Iran: Window for nuclear talks won't remain open forever

Separate, indirect talks between the United States and Iran on both returning to compliance with the deal have been halted since June. Washington and its European allies have been urging hardline President Ebrahim Raisi's administration, which took office in August, to return to the talks.

Under the 2015 deal between Iran and major powers, Tehran agreed to restrictions on its nuclear activities in exchange for the lifting of sanctions.

Western powers must decide whether to push for a resolution criticising Iran and raising pressure on it for stonewalling the IAEA at next week's meeting of the agency's 35-nation Board of Governors. A resolution could jeopardise the resumption of talks on the deal as Tehran bristles at such moves.

The European parties to the 2015 deal – Britain, France and Germany – held a meeting with the United States in Paris on Friday to discuss how to react at the IAEA board and to review options if Iran continues to stall on returning to negotiations. But diplomats said no decisions had been taken as of yet.

Countries on the IAEA Board of Governors will be watching Grossi's visit to see whether Iran yields either on granting access to the monitoring equipment to service it or offers the prospect of answers on the uranium particles found at the undeclared former sites.

Read: IAEA pressures Iran as fate of talks on nuclear deal hangs in balance

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