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Iran seeks stronger guarantees from the US; IAEA stops 'politically motivated probes'

Iranian politician Hossein Amir-Abdollahian - [Flickr]
Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian [Flickr]

Iran's Foreign Minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, said on Wednesday that Tehran needed stronger guarantees from Washington to revive the 2015 nuclear agreement, adding that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) must abandon its "political motivated probes" into Tehran's nuclear activity.

After indirect talks between Tehran and Washington that lasted 16 months, Josep Borell, EU Foreign Policy Chief said on 8 August that the EU had presented a final offer to overcome an impasse for the revival of the agreement.

Amir-Abdollahian said that Tehran was carefully reviewing Washington's response to the final offer conveyed last week by the EU, as the coordinator of the nuclear talks, to Iran.

The Foreign Minister said in a joint press conference with his Russian counterpart in Moscow, "Iran is carefully reviewing the EU-drafted text … We need stronger guarantees from the other party to have a sustainable deal."

READ: US assures Israel that Iran will not become a nuclear power

He did not clarify what he meant by "stronger guarantees", but during the talks that lasted months with Washington in Vienna, Tehran asked for a guarantee that no US president would withdraw from the deal in the future as former US President Donald Trump did in 2018.

However, President Joe Biden cannot make such fixed assurances because the agreement is just a political understanding, not a legally binding treaty.

White House national security spokesman, John Kirby, said he had not seen the Iranian Foreign Minister's comments.

Kirby added to reporters, "So I don't know what guarantees he's talking about." The US is currently waiting for a response from the EU and Iranians.

He said, "While we are, as I said earlier, cautiously optimistic, we are also pragmatic and clear-eyed and we realise that there's still gaps, and we're trying to close those gaps in a good-faith way, negotiating through appropriate channels and not through the public."

The White House said in a statement that Biden informed Israel Prime Minister, Yair Lapid, on Wednesday that the US will never allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon.

In its own statement regarding the call, Lapid's office said they "spoke at length about the negotiations on a nuclear agreement, and their shared commitment to stopping Iran's progress towards a nuclear weapon".

Israel rejects the revival of the 2015 deal, while Biden has promised to revive the Agreement, while ensuring the security of Israel, Iran's regional arch-enemy.

Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the man who has the most weight in the Iranian nuclear conflict with the West, has not commented in his public speeches on the nuclear talks for months.

The sanctions imposed by the US, EU and UN on Tehran over its nuclear program prompted Khamenei to tentatively support the 2015 Agreement between Tehran and major powers that restricted Iran's nuclear program in exchange for lifting sanctions.

However, Trump withdrew from the deal three years later, and re-imposed strict sanctions on Iran, pushing it to violate the nuclear restrictions agreed upon in the deal, such as rebuilding stockpiles of enriched uranium, refining it to higher fissile purity and installing advanced centrifuges to speed up output.

A former Iranian official said, "It will be a massive embarrassment for the Supreme Leader if Washington pulls out of the deal again. That is one of the reasons behind Tehran's insistence on this issue."

READ: Iran to change school textbook content on Khamenei's orders

The revival of the nuclear deal seemed imminent in March, but the indirect talks between Tehran and Washington collapsed for a number of reasons, including Tehran's insistence on the IAEA closing its investigations into the uranium traces found at three undeclared sites before reviving the nuclear Agreement.

Amir-Abdollahian said, "The agency should close this case … Such politically motivated demands are unacceptable for Iran."

Tehran's demand may hurt the efforts to save the deal.  An Iranian official, who refused to reveal their identity, told Reuters that "closure of the IAEA's investigation is the Supreme Leader's red line."

Kirby said US officials believe the sides are closer than ever now than in the past months "due in large part to Iran being willing to drop some of their demands that were not related to the deal at all."

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