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Iran invites UN nuclear watchdog head to Tehran for talks

Invitation for meetings with foreign minister, atomic energy chief comes after Rafael Grossi said lack of communication with Tehran was ‘astonishing’

International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi, (left) speaks with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, on Monday, October 18, 2021, in the Benjamin Franklin Room at the State Department in Washington, ahead of a meeting. (Mandel Ngan/Pool via AP)
International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi, (left) speaks with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, on Monday, October 18, 2021, in the Benjamin Franklin Room at the State Department in Washington, ahead of a meeting. (Mandel Ngan/Pool via AP)

Iran has invited the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency for talks after the UN official expressed concern over a lack of contact with Iranian authorities, Tehran said Monday.

UN nuclear watchdog chief Rafael Grossi “has been invited” to Tehran and a visit date has been put forward, foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said, without providing specifics on the possible timing of the trip.

Grossi is expected to meet with Iran’s foreign minister and the country’s atomic energy chief, Khatibzadeh told journalists, adding, “We await his response.”

Grossi had been hoping to visit Iran before the next meeting of the IAEA’s Board of Governors starts on November 22, but on Friday described a lack of contact with the Iranian government as “astonishing.”

“There’s a long list of things we need to discuss,” he said.

Grossi last visited Tehran in September, where he clinched a deal over access to surveillance equipment at Iran’s nuclear facilities.

In this image, made from April 17, 2021 video released by the state-run TV station Islamic Republic Iran Broadcasting, various centrifuge machines line a hall at the Natanz Uranium Enrichment Facility. (IRIB via AP)

Days after that visit, the IAEA complained that it had been denied “indispensable” access to a centrifuge component manufacturing workshop where it needed to service equipment.

The invitation comes as talks are expected to resume on November 29 in Vienna aimed at reviving a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.

The deal, which offered Tehran relief from sanctions in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program, was torpedoed when the US unilaterally pulled out in 2018 and Iran began disregarding curbs on its nuclear activity.

Talks have been on hold since June following the election of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi.

On Monday, Khatibzadeh reiterated Iran’s demands for guarantees that the US would not pull out of the deal again, adding that progress in negotiations was contingent on the lifting of sanctions.

However, US President Joe Biden’s administration has expressed growing impatience and threatened to explore “other options” should the negotiations fail.

Meanwhile, Israel’s military has begun drawing up fresh attack plans for a strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, and last month the government reportedly allocated billions of shekels toward making those plans viable.

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