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Iran nuclear deal hangs in balance amid IAEA standoff

Chief of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran Mohammad Eslami looks down as he delivers a speech during the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) General Conference, an annual meeting of all the IAEA member states, at the agency's headquarters in Vienna, Austria on 20 September 2021. [JOE KLAMAR/AFP via Getty Images]
Chief of the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran Mohammad Eslami in Vienna, Austria on 20 September 2021 [JOE KLAMAR/AFP/Getty Images]

Tensions between Iran and the West have again reached a boiling point as the UN nuclear watchdog seeks to pass a resolution against Tehran amid stalled nuclear talks, Anadolu News Agency reports.

Striking a defiant tone, the head of Iran's nuclear agency, Mohammad Eslami, said Monday that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) should resist political pressure and monument by its constitution and mission.

He accused the watchdog of relying on reports from Iran's "enemies", and said the Agency has failed to take a critical view of a series of attacks on Iranian nuclear facilities.

Eslami's remarks came in response to IAEA chief, Rafael Grossi's statements at the UN nuclear agency's Board of Governors meeting in Vienna, on Monday, when he accused Iran of failing to mitigate concerns about its nuclear program by refusing to provide answers about uranium traces at three undeclared sites.

The meeting in Vienna has been called to discuss the IAEA's annual report for 2021, which is highly critical of Iran's nuclear program.

The report has prompted the US and its three European allies – UK, France, and Germany – to draft an anti-Iran resolution which, if adopted, is likely to affect Iran's cooperation with the UN nuclear agency.

The meeting, which will continue till Friday, will determine the fate of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and Vienna talks, especially if the Agency adopts the resolution pushed by the US and E3, according to observers.

Israel trip

Grossi, whose visit to Israel ahead of the IAEA Board of Governors meeting stirred up a hornet's nest, said the answers received by the UN nuclear agency from Iran have "not been technically credible".On his visit to Israel, the UN official said it sent "absolutely no message" but to tell the Israeli officials to "let the IAEA work".

He further said that it was in no one's interest that cooperation between the Agency and Iran diminishes further, adding that both sides need to sit down and clarify outstanding issues.

In response, Eslami said the IAEA chief "lacked the serious will to describe Iran's answers to the UN agency as convincing."

READ: Iran vows 'immediate response to any political action' by West

He said Iran's share of world energy was 3 per cent, but 25 per cent of the work of IAEA inspectors was focused on his country.

Without specifying Iran's reaction to the potential resolution at the IAEA Board of Governors meeting, the top nuclear official said the decision to enrich uranium up to 90 per cent purity, from the current 60 per cent, rests with relevant officials.

However, he added that the "resolutions being discussed" at the meeting in Vienna "won't create a new situation" and that Iran will continue its "peaceful nuclear activities regardless of the fate of the nuclear deal."

Negative impact

Earlier in the day, Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Saeed Khatibzadeh, said Iran will "respond proportionately" to any action taken against it in the IAEA meeting.

The Agency's annual report, he stressed, presents a "vague and far-fetched narrative" about Iran's actions and plans, adding that the resolution pushed by the US and E3 has "traces" of Israel and should be rejected.

He warned that the resolution will have"negative impact" on Iran's cooperation with the IAEA, as well as negotiations to salvage the 2015 deal, which remain stalled over key disagreements between Tehran and Washington.

On Sunday, Foreign Minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, said he had spoken to the European Union Foreign Policy chief, Josep Borrell, about the Vienna talks, adding that those pushing the anti-Iran resolution "will be responsible for all the consequences."

READ: IAEA Director General arrives in Israel to meet Prime Minister

Iran and world powers signed the landmark nuclear deal in 2015, which eased economic sanctions on Tehran in exchange for caps on the country's nuclear activities.

In May 2018, then US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew his country from the deal, which was followed by the reinstatement of sanctions on Iran.

A year later, Iran began to scale back its commitments under the deal, ramping up nuclear enrichment beyond the 3.65 per cent stipulated in the deal.

The efforts to salvage the deal have been under way since last April in Vienna, without any significant breakthrough, so far.

Asia & AmericasIAEAInternational OrganisationsIranIsraelMiddle EastNewsUNUS
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