Iran says IAEA probe of undeclared nuclear sites must end for ‘sustainable’ accord

Foreign Ministry spokesperson says closing of investigation needed as ‘guarantee’ for reentering accord; US has called recent Iranian positions ‘not constructive’

IAEA inspectors at Iran's nuclear power plant in Natanz on January 20, 2014. (IRNA/AFP Kazem Ghane/File)
IAEA inspectors at Iran's nuclear power plant in Natanz on January 20, 2014. (IRNA/AFP Kazem Ghane/File)

Tehran said Monday that it was seeking a halt to investigations into its nuclear activity by the International Atomic Energy Agency as a condition for entering the nuclear deal.

“An end to the agency’s probes is part of the guarantees that we are seeking to have a sustainable and durable nuclear agreement,” Iranian foreign ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani told a televised news conference, according to the Reuters news agency.

The comments are the clearest indication yet that the UN watchdog’s investigations into undeclared nuclear sites have become one of the main sticking points to a return to the 2015 agreement.

The United States said Thursday it had received a new response from Iran on reviving the nuclear deal but that it was “not constructive.”

The response was the latest in a back and forth between the adversaries via mediators from the European Union, whose foreign policy chief Josep Borrell last week had hoped for a resolution within days to revive the accord.

Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani said early Friday Iran time that Tehran sent its latest reply in response to the US position, according to state news agency IRNA. He called the Iranian proposal “constructive” and expressed hopes that a deal would be finalized.

Washington did not share Kanaani’s enthusiasm for the proffer.

“We can confirm that we have received Iran’s response through the EU,” State Department spokesman Vedant Patel said late Thursday in Washington.

In this photo released on Thursday, August 11, 2022, by the Iranian Foreign Ministry, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani speaks in Tehran, Iran. (Iranian Foreign Ministry via AP)

“We are studying it and will respond through the EU, but unfortunately it is not constructive.”

A senior Biden administration official was similarly critical of the Iranian response, but would not provide specifics.

“We are studying Iran’s response, but the bottom line is that it is not at all encouraging,” the unnamed official told Politico. “Based on their answer, we appear to be moving backward.”

A European diplomat echoed that sentiment, telling the US news site that Tehran’s proposal appeared “negative and not reasonable.”

The US has declined to discuss details publicly but disputes include Iran’s insistence on the UN nuclear watchdog closing a probe of three undeclared sites suspected in nuclear work before the 2015 nuclear deal — something the US and the IAEA both oppose.

US President Joe Biden took office aiming to revive the accord, which was trashed in 2018 by his predecessor Donald Trump, who unleashed a volley of fresh sanctions on the Islamic Republic.

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