IAEA chief begins nuclear talks in Tehran

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The Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Grossi, met Iranian officials in Tehran on Sunday, on the day that a deadline set by Iran for the lifting of US sanctions expires. . Arrived Saturday evening in the Iranian capital, he began his discussions on the nuclear issue with the president of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization (OIEA), Ali Akbar Salehi. He will hold a press conference in the evening on his return to Vienna, IAEA headquarters.

His visit comes as the Iranian parliament has set Sunday February 21 as the deadline for restricting certain inspections by the IAEA, the UN nuclear “gendarme”, on non-nuclear facilities, including suspected military sites in Iran. Possible enforcement of the law would begin on Tuesday, Salehi said, although Iran has stressed in recent days that it will not stop collaborating with the IAEA and expel its inspectors.

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These inspections are provided for in the international agreement of 2015, supposed to frame the Iranian nuclear program, agreement from which the previous administration of Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the United States in 2018 by reinstating sanctions that strangle the Iranian economy. “In my opinion, IAEA inspections will be reduced by around 20-30% after the law is implemented,” Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi said in a television interview on Saturday evening. “This certainly does not mean a withdrawal from the agreement” of 2015.

“Maximum pressure”

After Donald Trump’s “maximum pressure” policy, Iran gradually freed itself from the number of limits it had agreed to impose on its nuclear program from 2019 under the agreement concluded in 2015 with the 5 + 1 group (United States, France, Germany, Great Britain, Russia, China). Iran keeps saying it would revert to its commitments if Joe Biden’s new US administration lifts sanctions and it calls for Iran to return to its commitments, with both sides passing the buck.

Also read the opinion: How to restore the nuclear agreement with Iran?

On Thursday, the United States accepted the Europeans’ invitation to participate in talks to revive the 2015 agreement. But the next day, Joe Biden called on European powers to work in concert with the United States to respond to ” destabilizing activities ”of Iran in the Middle East.

In this complex diplomatic context and while Iran and the United States have not maintained diplomatic relations since 1980, Mr. Araghchi said Iran was considering the EU’s proposal for an “informal meeting”. “We will decide after consultations,” he said, adding that Iran would discuss it with “friends and allies like China and Russia.”

The mixed press

Mr. Grossi’s visit received a mixed reception in the Iranian press. The ultraconservative daily Kayhan praised the law of parliament which “took” Rafael Grossi to Iran. This “strategy” has shown the opposing camp that “breaking the contract is costly,” the newspaper wrote in denouncing “the Western scam”. On the other hand, the reformist newspaper is said he doubted the effectiveness of the passage of this law since Washington “has shown no desire to return to the agreement” under Iranian conditions. “There is no prospect of opening up so far,” said the daily, estimating that “the days to come are critical for Iran” and for other countries parties to the nuclear agreement.

Joe Biden was vice-president of Barack Obama when the nuclear agreement was concluded in 2015. Iran has always denied seeking to acquire atomic weapons and the agreement provides for a partial lifting of international sanctions, in exchange for the guarantee that Iran would not acquire such a weapon.