BRUSSELS – The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency said Wednesday that he has failed to convince Iran to replace key equipment needed to monitor its activities, which could bode badly for the resumption of talks next week on the renewal of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. nuclear program.
The United Nations has made the agency responsible for monitoring nuclear activities among Member States. Its inspectors and cameras have been the main source of information on Iran’s nuclear program, which many in the West believe is getting closer to possessing the know-how and materials for creating nuclear weapons, despite Iran’s repeated insistence on peaceful intentions.
Agency Director General Rafael M. Grossi said at a quarterly meeting of the Board of Governors in Geneva that two-day talks in Tehran did not result in an agreement to re-install surveillance cameras at a centrifuge parts workshop in Karaj, Iran. In June, the seminar was the target of a blatant sabotage – an attack that Iran accuses Israel of.
After what he described as intense negotiations, Mr. Grossi told reporters, “Yesterday we could not agree, despite my best efforts.” He promised to keep trying, saying, “We must reach an agreement.”
The Karaj plant is again producing centrifuge parts that enrich uranium, but without agency oversight. In September, Iran reached an agreement with Mr. Grossi to provide agency inspectors with access to surveillance devices, including cameras with full memory cards and automatic measuring devices sealed at various nuclear facilities. But Iran has since denied inspectors access to replace memory cards and retrieve data.
Mr. Grossi said that negotiations with Iran will continue, but that time is running out.
“We are close to the point where I cannot guarantee continuity of knowledge” about the activities at the workshop, he said, adding that the information was “widely recognized as important in relation to the return” to the 2015 nuclear deal. this imposes severe restrictions on Iran’s enrichment of nuclear weapons and other activities.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Iran has refused to give the agency access to Karaj unless it backs down part of a longstanding investigation into the discovery of undeclared nuclear materials in Iran, raising fears that Tehran is hiding past or current nuclear military activities.
President Biden is in talks to bring the United States back to a 2015 deal that former President Donald Trump abandoned more than three years ago. But since the last round of those talks ended in June, Iran has elected a more conservative president, Ebrahim Raisi. He expressed deep skepticism about the value of negotiations if the United States does not immediately lift all punitive sanctions against Iran and pledges never to withdraw from the deal again. Both of these conditions cannot be met, senior US officials said.
On Monday, for the first time since Mr Raisi took office this summer, Iranian negotiators are scheduled to meet with their European, Chinese and Russian counterparts in Vienna to resume negotiations on the deal. But Europeans and American negotiators are much more pessimistic after the talks than when they left Vienna five months ago. Today, the nuclear deal looks dead, and President Biden’s vision of renegotiating the deal in its first year and then creating something “longer and stronger” seems to have all but disappeared.
Iran violated the terms of the 2015 deal in response to what it said was the re-imposition of punitive sanctions by the United States under Mr Trump and the failure of European countries to fulfill the economic promises they made to Iran under the deal.
US officials estimate Iran may now have enough highly enriched uranium for a single bomb in about two months, although its ability to create weapons – a goal that Iran has always denied – will be in perhaps two years from now.
In Tehran, Mr. Grossi met with the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Mohammad Eslami, and Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, who said that Tehran wants “constructive engagement” with the agency.