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US official: Iran no longer demanding IAEA stop probing undeclared nuclear materials

Unnamed American source tells news agency sides closer to deal after Tehran forfeits key stipulations

Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi, second right, listens to an explanation while viewing an advanced centrifuge at an exhibition of Iran's nuclear achievements in Tehran, Iran on April 9, 2022. (Iran President's Office)
Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi, second right, listens to an explanation while viewing an advanced centrifuge at an exhibition of Iran's nuclear achievements in Tehran, Iran on April 9, 2022. (Iran President's Office)

Iran has made a number of important concessions in an increasingly successful-looking bid to return to the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, a US official said Tuesday.

The anonymous official revealed to the Reuters news agency that the Islamic Republic largely gave up its demand that the United States delist Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist organization, and backed away from its insistence that the International Atomic Energy Agency close its probe into unexplained traces of uranium at undeclared nuclear sites.

“They came back last week and basically dropped the main hang-ups to a deal,” the official said, adding that Iran had “crossed the Rubicon and moved toward possibly getting back into the deal on terms that President [Joe] Biden can accept.”

The official also denied Iran’s claims that a deal has become more possible due to concessions made by the Biden administration: “If we are closer today, it’s because Iran has moved. They conceded on issues that they have been holding onto from the beginning.”

Iran’s Foreign Ministry did not immediately comment on the Reuters report.

Israel is concerned about the ongoing talks aimed at reviving the deal, and recent reports have said the US has attempted to assuage Jerusalem’s fears about a possible agreement.

Iranian deputy foreign minister Reza Najafi, left, and Iranian AEOI spokesperson Behrouz Kamalvandi, seen leaving the Palais Coburg where closed-door nuclear talks took place in Vienna, Austria, August 5, 2022. (AP/Florian Schroetter)

US officials have told Israel’s leadership that a new nuclear agreement is not imminent and that Washington has not agreed to any new concessions to Iran in order to reach an accord, the Walla news site reported Saturday, citing senior US officials.

The US source told Reuters that Iran had attempted various angles on the matter of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, but the US refused to budge.

“A month ago they started to soften that core demand and said ‘you can keep the [FTO] designation but we would like you to lift it from a number of companies affiliated with the IRGC.’ We said ‘No we’re not going to do that.'”

According to the official, the US told the Iranians it would “never accept” their demand that the IAEA cease its probe of unexplained material at its nuclear sites.

IAEA chief Raphael Grossi also said on Monday that such a move would be out of the question.

Another official told Reuters that under the deal, extensive IAEA inspections of Iranian nuclear facilities would resume and Iran’s program would be held under strict limits.

Iran would not be allowed to possess uranium at 20% and 60% enrichment levels and it would be forced to switch off its advanced centrifuges, preventing it from massing the material required to build a bomb.

“Strict limits on Iranian enrichment would mean that even if Iran left the deal to pursue a nuclear weapon, it would take at least six months to do so,” the official said.

In this September 21, 2016, file photo, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard troops march in a military parade in Tehran, Iran. ​(AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi, File)

The Biden administration and the European Union have been looking over Iran’s proposals for a return to the accord over the past week.

Iran criticized the US on Monday for what it called a delayed response to its outline.

“We’re studying Iran’s response now and we’ll get back to them soon,” the first official said. The source explained that the US would be required to lift some sanctions in a deal, but that “Iran has to dismantle its nuclear program.”

Iran signed its nuclear deal in 2015 with the US, France, Germany, the UK, Russia, and China. The deal saw Iran agree to limit its enrichment of uranium under the watch of UN inspectors in exchange for relief from economic sanctions.

In 2018, then-US president Donald Trump pulled the US out of the accord and said he would negotiate a stronger deal, but that didn’t happen. Iran began breaking the deal’s terms a year later.

EU-coordinated negotiations on reviving the deal began in April 2021 before coming to a standstill in March and picking up again in August. The Biden administration has repeatedly said it believes diplomacy is the best way to resolve the crisis.

Israel believes Iran intends to build a nuclear bomb, has published intelligence it says reveals the Iranian weapons program, and has reportedly carried out sabotage operations within the Islamic Republic to delay the development of such a weapon.

Iran has denied any nefarious intentions and claims its program is designed for peaceful purposes, though it has recently been enriching uranium to levels that international leaders say have no civil use.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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