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UN atomic agency: ‘No reply’ from Iran on expired nuclear inspections deal

Iranian envoy to IAEA asserts agreement to keep recordings of nuclear sites ‘shouldn’t be considered as obligation’; US official says Tehran ‘should engage’ with the agency

Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency Rafael Mariano Grossi, from Argentina, addresses the media during a news conference regarding the agency's monitoring of Iran's nuclear energy program at the International Center in Vienna, Austria,  on June 7, 2021. (AP Photo/Lisa Leutner)
Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency Rafael Mariano Grossi, from Argentina, addresses the media during a news conference regarding the agency's monitoring of Iran's nuclear energy program at the International Center in Vienna, Austria, on June 7, 2021. (AP Photo/Lisa Leutner)

The UN nuclear watchdog said Friday it had received no reply from Tehran over the possible extension of a temporary agreement covering inspections at Iranian nuclear facilities which expired on Thursday.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in a statement its director Rafael Grossi had written to Tehran about the matter on 17 June but that “Iran had not replied to his letter or indicated whether it intends to maintain the current arrangement.”

Grossi said “an immediate response from Iran is needed in this regard.”

Iran’s envoy to the IAEA, Kazem Gharibabadi, wrote on Twitter that the data recording was “a political decision” to facilitate the political talks and “shouldn’t be considered as obligation.”

Gharibabadi was also quoted by the Tasnim news agency as saying “that Iran was not required to comply” with Grossi’s request, according to Reuters.

In late February, Iran limited the IAEA’s access to nuclear sites it has been monitoring as part of the 2015 deal.

Iran’s envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Kazem Gharibabadi, leaves the ‘Grand Hotel Vienna’ where where closed-door nuclear talks take place in Vienna, Austria, June 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Florian Schroetter)

A three-month agreement reached on February 21 allowing some inspections to continue was extended by another month in May.

Under that deal Iran pledged to keep recordings “of some activities and monitoring equipment” and hand them over to the IAEA as and when US sanctions are lifted.

Grossi has described the deal as a “stop-gap measure… as a way to avoid flying completely blind.”

An unnamed US State Department official on Friday said Iran should work with the IAEA on the matter. The official told Reuters that a failure to do so would contradict Tehran’s claim that it wants both it and the United States to return to swiftly return to compliance with the nuclear deal.

“Iran should engage the IAEA without further delay to ensure appropriate measures remain in place so the IAEA’s continuity of knowledge on JCPOA monitoring can be readily reestablished,” the official said.

The agreement has been in place while Iran and world powers negotiate in Vienna over a possible US return to the landmark 2015 nuclear deal.

Illustrative: An unidentified International Atomic Energy Agency inspector cuts the connections between the twin cascades for 20 percent uranium enrichment at the Natanz facility, some 200 miles (322 kilometers) south of the capital Tehran, Iran, January 20, 2014. (AP/IRNA, Kazem Ghane)

The accord has been unravelling ever since former US President Donald Trump withdrew from it in May 2018 and went on to re-impose sanctions against Iran.

Iranian state media on Wednesday quoted Mahmoud Vaezi, chief of staff to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, as saying that the country’s Supreme National Security Council would take a decision on whether to extend the arrangement with the IAEA at its first meeting after the expiration date.

Also Friday, the US and France warned Iran that time is running out to return to a nuclear deal, voicing fear that Tehran’s sensitive atomic activities could advance if talks drag on.

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