IAEA chief to meet Iranian president in Tehran for nuclear talks — diplomat

Rafael Grossi, head of UN atomic watchdog, said hoping to relaunch dialogue on Iran’s program at the highest level after nearly bomb-grade uranium found

Director General of the Atomic Energy Agency Rafael Marino Grossi speaks at an event at Chatham House in London, February 7, 2023. (Alastair Grant/AP)
Director General of the Atomic Energy Agency Rafael Marino Grossi speaks at an event at Chatham House in London, February 7, 2023. (Alastair Grant/AP)

VIENNA, Austria — The head of the United Nation’s nuclear watchdog will meet with Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi in Tehran on Saturday to try to “relaunch the dialogue” on the country’s atomic work, a diplomatic source said Wednesday.

The visit by Rafael Grossi of the International Atomic Energy Agency comes after it announced that its inspectors in Iran had found uranium particles enriched to nearly bomb grade, or 90 percent.

Last week, Tehran claimed it had not made any attempt to enrich uranium beyond 60%.

Grossi is aiming to “reset the relationship at the highest level” by directly speaking to Raisi, the source said.

“He had made clear over recent weeks that he was only prepared to go to Teheran if he had an invitation to speak with the president,” the source added.

Contacted by AFP, the IAEA declined to comment.

Grossi “will arrive in Tehran on Friday evening for high-level meetings planned to be held on Saturday,” Iran’s Fars news agency reported on Wednesday.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi addresses lawmakers while defending his next year’s budget bill at the parliament in Tehran, Iran, January 22, 2023. (Vahid Salemi/AP)

Iran and world powers struck a landmark accord on limiting the country’s nuclear activities in 2015, but it started to unravel when the United States withdrew from it in 2018 under former president Donald Trump.

The deal was designed to give Iran much-needed relief from Western economic sanctions in return for curbs on its atomic program to prevent it from developing nuclear weapons.

On-and-off negotiations to revive the deal started in 2021, but have stalled since last year.

On Tuesday, a confidential IAEA report seen by AFP said that uranium particles enriched up to 83.7% — just below weapons grade — had been detected at Iran’s underground Fordow plant.

The discovery came after Iran had substantially modified an interconnection between two centrifuge clusters enriching uranium, without declaring it to the IAEA.

“Discussions are still ongoing” to determine the origin of nearly bomb grade particles, the IAEA said in the report.

While in Tehran, Grossi will try to secure “more access to the (Fordow) site, more inspections,” the diplomatic source said.

Depending on the outcome of the trip, the United States and the E3 — France, Germany and Britain — will decide whether to submit a draft resolution censuring Iran to the IAEA Board of Governors, which is due to convene next week in Vienna.

In November 2022, Iran was censured for its lack of cooperation regarding traces of enriched uranium found at three undeclared sites.

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