Iran on Sunday agreed to allow international inspectors to install new memory cards in surveillance cameras at its sensitive nuclear sites and continue filming there, possibly averting a diplomatic showdown this week.
However, the announcement by Mohammad Eslami of the Atomic Energy Organization in Iran after a meeting he held with the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Grossi, in Tehran still leaves the watchdog in the same position it has faced since February, however.
Tehran keeps all footage on its website, as negotiations on the US and Iran, which return to the 2015 nuclear deal, are still stalled in Vienna. Meanwhile, Iran is now enriching small amounts of uranium to its nearest levels ever for purity of weapon quality, as its stock continues to grow.
The UN watchdog has not had access to important Iranian nuclear data since February 23, the agency said
“We had a big, major break in communication with Iran, which of course is something we can not afford, as we have so many important issues that we need to resolve,” Grossi told reporters as he returned from Tehran. “And I think it was resolved.”
Eslami described the negotiations between Iran and the Vienna-based IAEA as “purely technical” with no room for policy. He said Grossi would soon return to Iran to speak with officials without elaborating. Also unsaid was whether Iran would hand over copies of the older footage that Tehran had previously threatened to destroy.
“The memory cards are sealed and stored in Iran, according to routine,” Eslami said. New memory cards are installed in cameras. This is a routine and natural trend in the Agency’s monitoring system. ”
A joint statement released by the IAEA and Iran confirmed the understanding, saying only that “that way and time are agreed by the two sides.”
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Grossi said the deal would ensure “continuity of knowledge” that would ensure the watchdog can gather the data it needs in the future.
“The reconstruction and composition of the puzzle will come when there is an agreement at the JCPOA level,” he said, referring to the negotiations for the revival of the 2015 agreement between Iran and world powers. “But at that point, we want all this information, and there has not been a gap.”
The announcement could buy time for Iran ahead of an IAEA board meeting this week in which Western powers had argued that Tehran should be censored for its lack of cooperation with international inspectors. Eslami said Iran would attend this meeting and its negotiations with the IAEA would continue there.
The IAEA told member states in its confidential quarterly report last week that its verification and surveillance activities have been “severely undermined” since February by Iran’s refusal to allow inspectors access to their surveillance equipment.
Iran says inspectors are no longer allowed access to surveillance images of nuclear sites
The IAEA said certain surveillance and surveillance equipment could not stand for more than three months without being serviced. It gained access this month to four surveillance cameras installed at one location, but one of the cameras had been destroyed and another had been severely damaged.
Grossi said the broken and damaged cameras would be replaced, but stated that the technical agreement reached in Tehran was only a stopgap.
“This cannot be a permanent solution,” he said. “If you ask me how many months, how many days, it’s hard for me to say. But I do not see this as a long-term view. ”
Mikhail Ulyanov, the Russian ambassador to the IAEA, praised the agreement on Twitter, calling it “technically but very important.”
“It is no less important for Iran to reject unfounded speculation against it,” Ulyanov wrote.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett says Iran would acquire nuclear weapons would be a ‘nightmare for the whole world’
Iran and world powers agreed in 2015 on the nuclear deal, in which Tehran drastically limited its enrichment of uranium against lifting economic sanctions. In 2018, then-President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew America from the deal, heightening tensions throughout the Middle East and triggering a series of attacks and incidents.
President Joe Biden has said he is willing to renegotiate the agreement, but indirect negotiations have not yet proved successful. Meanwhile, Iran elected Ebrahim Raisi, a stubborn protégé of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, as president. Raisi has also said he wants Iran to regain the benefits of the deal, although Tehran has generally taken a tougher position since its victory.
In Israel, Israeli Prime Minister Nafatli Bennett urged world powers not to “fall into the trap of Iranian deception that will lead to further concessions” over the stalemate. Israel, which is widely believed to possess nuclear weapons, has long accused Iran of seeking a nuclear bomb.
Tehran maintains that its program is peaceful, although US intelligence and international inspectors believe that the Islamic Republic pursued the bomb in an organized program until 2003.
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“You must not give up inspecting sites and the most important, most important message is that there must be a time limit,” Bennett said. “The Iranian nuclear program is at the most advanced time ever. … We have to deal with this project. ”
Israel is suspected of having launched several attacks targeting Iran’s nuclear plant in Natanz, as well as killing a scientist affiliated with Iran’s one-time military nuclear program last year.
From Riyadh, top diplomats in Saudi Arabia and Austria jointly expressed concern over Iran’s nuclear progress, citing Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg, quoting “Iran’s failure to provide access to nuclear inspections.”
Gambrell reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Associated Press authors Ilan Ben Zion in Jerusalem, Isabel DeBre in Dubai and Frank Jordans in Berlin contributed to this report.
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