Iran demands ‘stronger US guarantees’ in nuclear deal

In Moscow, FM Hossein Amir-Abdollahian calls for end to IAEA’s ‘politically motivated probes,’ highlighting key sticking point in ongoing negotiations

Amy Spiro is a reporter and writer with The Times of Israel

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (R) and Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian shake hands during a joint news conference in Moscow on August 31, 2022. (MAXIM SHEMETOV/POOL/AFP)
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (R) and Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian shake hands during a joint news conference in Moscow on August 31, 2022. (MAXIM SHEMETOV/POOL/AFP)

Iran says it demanded stronger guarantees from the United States in the most recent draft of the nuclear deal, the latest indication that while talks on reviving the 2015 agreement are progressing, gaps still remain.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian made the comments during a meeting on Wednesday in Moscow with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov.

“Iran is carefully reviewing the EU-drafted text… we need stronger guarantees from the other party [the US] to have a sustainable deal,” Amir-Abdollahian told reporters in comments published by Reuters.

Amir-Abdollahian also insisted that “the [UN] agency should close its politically motivated probes.”

The foreign minister was referring to ongoing investigations by the International Atomic Energy Agency into Iranian nuclear activity at undeclared sites — the latest sticking point in the nuclear talks.

Amir-Abdollahian’s comments echoed those made by Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi on Monday, vowing that Tehran would only sign a nuclear deal if the IAEA probes were shut down.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi speaks during a press conference in Tehran on August 29 2022. (AFP)

“Without settlement of safeguard issues, speaking about an agreement has no meaning,” Raisi said.

But the US has stated that it will not agree to shutting any ongoing IAEA probes in Iran under a renewed nuclear deal — a position for which Israel has strongly lobbied.

At a US State Department briefing on Tuesday, deputy spokesman Vedant Patel reiterated to reporters that the White House does not intend to curtail the IAEA’s activities as part of a return to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

“Safeguards on nuclear materials relate to the very core of the IAEA’s mandate,” Patel said. “And we have been crystal clear that we do not believe there should be any conditionality between reimplementation of the JCPOA and the investigations related to Iran’s legal obligations under the NPT and its Comprehensive Safeguard Agreement.”

Patel also said that the ball is currently in Iran’s court to respond to the latest EU draft of the agreement: “We received Iran’s comments, we’ve responded to them, and now it’s up to Iran to answer.”

The IAEA for years has sought for Iran to answer questions about manmade uranium particles found at undeclared sites. US intelligence agencies, Western nations and the IAEA have said Iran ran an organized nuclear weapons program until 2003. Iran long has denied ever seeking nuclear weapons.

Various centrifuge machines line a hall at the Natanz Uranium Enrichment Facility, on April 17, 2021. (Screenshot/Islamic Republic Iran Broadcasting-IRIB, via AP)

As a member of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, Iran is obligated to explain the radioactive traces and to provide assurances that they are not being used as part of a nuclear weapons program.

Iran found itself criticized by the IAEA’s Board of Governors in June over its failure to answer questions about the sites to the inspectors’ satisfaction.

EU-coordinated negotiations on reviving the 2015 deal began in April 2021 before coming to a standstill in March and picking up again in August.

In recent weeks Israel has launched a heavy lobbying effort with the US and its European allies to shape the looming deal.

Prime Minister Yair Lapid said last week that Israeli efforts to sway officials have had positive effects, and that “the Americans accepted a large part of the things that we wanted them to include in the drafts.”

Reports at the time indicated that one of the assurances the White House made to Israeli national security adviser Eyal Hulata during his visit to DC last week was a promise not to bend on the issue of the IAEA investigations.

Times of Israel staff and agencies contributed to this report.

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