UN nuclear watchdog head in Iran for talks as atomic accord unravels
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UN nuclear watchdog head in Iran for talks as atomic accord unravels

International Atomic Energy Agency says Cornel Feruta’s visit is part of its ‘ongoing interaction’ with Tehran and to monitor compliance with endangered 2015 nuclear pact

Acting Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, Cornel Feruta from Romania waits for the start of the IAEA board of governors meeting at the International Center in Vienna, Austria, August 1, 2019. (Ronald Zak/AP)
Acting Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, Cornel Feruta from Romania waits for the start of the IAEA board of governors meeting at the International Center in Vienna, Austria, August 1, 2019. (Ronald Zak/AP)

The acting head of the UN atomic watchdog, Cornel Feruta, arrived in Tehran on Sunday for high-level talks with Iranian officials, the semi-official ISNA news agency reported.

The International Atomic Energy Agency official’s visit comes a day after Iran announced its latest step in reducing its commitments to a 2015 nuclear deal.

The Romanian diplomat was to meet Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization chief Ali Akbar Salehi, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, and Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, ISNA said.

The IAEA said the visit was part of its “ongoing interactions” with Tehran, including “verification and monitoring in Iran under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA),” the technical name for the 2015 deal.

The accord gave Iran relief from sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear program.

Behrouz Kamalvandi of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization said on Saturday that the country had fired up 20 IR-4 and 20 IR-6 advanced centrifuges — a third step it has taken back from the nuclear deal.

In this photo released by the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, spokesman of the organization Behrouz Kamalvandi speaks in a news briefing as advanced centrifuges are displayed in front of him, in Tehran, Iran, September 7, 2019 (Atomic Energy Organization of Iran via AP)

Despite the latest move, the UN agency said Iran would allow the IAEA to continue monitoring its nuclear facilities in accordance with the 2015 agreement.

In response, the IAEA said it had noted Iran’s latest move and indicated its inspectors were ready to check its compliance.

“Agency inspectors are on the ground in Iran and they will report any relevant activities to IAEA headquarters in Vienna,” spokesman Fredrik Dahl said.

Iran has taken a series of retaliatory steps to reduce compliance with the deal after the United States withdrew from it last year and began reimposing sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

On July 1, Iran said it had increased its stockpile of enriched uranium to beyond the 300-kilogram limit set by the agreement.

A week later, it announced it had exceeded the deal’s uranium enrichment limit of 3.67 percent.

Feruta’s visit to Tehran comes a day before the IAEA board of governors convenes for a quarterly meeting in Vienna, at which its verification and monitoring mission in Iran will be discussed.

A technician at the Uranium Conversion Facility just outside the city of Isfahan, Iran, 255 miles (410 kilometers) south of the capital Tehran, February 3, 2007. (AP/Vahid Salemi/File)

In its latest report on August 30, the watchdog said it was continuing to verify compliance through cameras and on-site inspections.

But in an apparent hint at worries about access, it said “ongoing interactions… require full and timely cooperation by Iran.”

Iran has stressed it could quickly revert back to the terms of the accord, if Europe delivers the sanctions relief promised in return for curbing Tehran’s nuclear program.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who opposed the 2015 deal, insists that Tehran is seeking a nuclear arsenal, and is hiding parts of its program. A New York Times report this week quoted Netanyahu as saying he came very close to striking Iran in 2012 to try to halt its rogue nuclear program. The same report said Israel was now again considering a strike on Iran.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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