US says doubts over Iran deal remain after meeting nuke watchdog

Nikki Haley writes that she got ‘many good answers’ during her sit-down with the IAEA, but many concerns over accord criticized by White House linger

IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano, center left, meeting with US Ambassador Nikki Haley, center right at the IAEA headquarters in Vienna, Austria on August 23 2017. (Dean Calma / IAEA)
IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano, center left, meeting with US Ambassador Nikki Haley, center right at the IAEA headquarters in Vienna, Austria on August 23 2017. (Dean Calma / IAEA)

The United States still has doubts and concerns over the nuclear deal with Iran, the US ambassador to the United Nations said Wednesday, after a meeting with atomic officials intended to allay American anxieties about the landmark accord.

Nikki Haley also said the US is determined to ensure the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency has the resources it needs for “robust verification of nuclear-related activities in Iran.”

Haley met behind closed doors in Vienna Wednesday with IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano to be briefed on Iran’s compliance with the nuclear agreement, which US President Donald Trump has called into question, drawing threats from Iran of restarting its high-enrichment program.

“We came to Vienna with lots of questions about the Iran Deal. We received many good answers but we still have many doubts and concerns,” Haley wrote on Twitter after the meeting.

In an official statement, Haley said she discussed American concerns about “ensuring Iran strictly adheres to its obligations.”

The IAEA is charged with verifying compliance with the 2015 nuclear agreement between Iran and six major powers, including the United States. The pact outlined what Tehran had to do to pull back its nuclear program from the brink of weapons-making capacity in return for the West ending many of the financial, trade and oil sanctions that had battered Iran’s economy.

Trump has repeatedly criticized the deal, but has yet to pull out of it. Iran in response has threatened it can begin enriching weapons-grade uranium in a number of days if the US breaches the accord.

Before the meeting, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in a letter to Amano and European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini that Haley’s visit was another step by the US “that flies in the face” of the nuclear agreement.

While US officials are free to travel and meet IAEA officials, Zarif said the publicly stated purpose of Haley’s visit to discuss US concerns “raises several serious concerns over further violations of the letter and spirit” of the nuclear deal and the UN Security Council resolution endorsing it.

“Regrettably, this visit, with the stated purpose to ‘press the agency,’ is widely perceived by the international community as a manifest and blatant attempt…to put pressure on the agency and adversely affect the professional and impartial nature of the work of the IAEA in carrying out the job entrusted to it,” he said.

The foreign minister complained that the way the US planned and publicized Haley’s visit created “further uncertainty and ambiguity” among other countries and the private sector over the sustainability of the nuclear agreement.

He said this was another example of US “mala fide” — or “bad faith” — aimed at “limiting Iran’s benefits from the deal.”

Zarif said in the letter, dated Saturday and obtained by The Associated Press, that Haley’s visit could also “undermine the credibility” of the IAEA, which is vital to global nuclear nonproliferation and is charged by the UN Security Council to play an “independent role” in verifying compliance with the Iran nuclear deal.

Haley’s statement after meeting Amano praised the IAEA’s “credibility, professionalism and seriousness” in conducting its monitoring and verification work in Iran, but noted that the agency’s reports can only be as good as the access Iran grants.

Zarif said he was confident that Amano “will deal with this visit and other similar attempts with absolute professionalism and integrity.”

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