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Iran extends deal on nuclear program inspections

By on May 24, 2021 0

WASHINGTON – Iran on Monday agreed to a month-long extension of a deal with international inspectors that would allow them to continue monitoring the country’s nuclear program, averting a major setback in ongoing negotiations with Tehran.

As part of the agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency, Iran will extend access to surveillance cameras at its nuclear facilities until June 24, said Rafael Mariano Grossi, director general of the agency, to the press in Vienna.

The extension prevents a new crisis that could derail talks between world powers, including the United States, to bring Washington back to the 2015 nuclear deal that President Donald J. Trump withdrew three years ago. Restoring the deal, including Iran’s commitment to resume all of its obligations under the deal, is a top priority for President Biden.

Iran’s Supreme National Security Council said in a statement that the decision was taken “so that the negotiations have the necessary chance to progress and bear fruit.”

In December, Iran’s parliament passed a law overturning a previous deal with the nuclear agency based on the 2015 deal that gave inspectors the right to demand access to any site where they suspected nuclear activity. to have taken place.

At the end of February, Tehran and the nuclear agency reached a three-month compromise under which inspectors would retain partial access to nuclear production facilities.

Under the deal, Iran allowed cameras to continue monitoring its facilities, but insisted on retaining possession of the footage until an agreement to reinstate the broader nuclear deal was reached. State media nationwide reported on Monday that they would share the footage with the International Atomic Energy Agency if the United States lifted sanctions as part of a restored deal, but erased the records otherwise.

The deal will allow other methods of continued international visibility of the nuclear program, but neither Iran nor the agency has publicly provided full details of their compromise.

“I want to stress that this is not ideal,” Mr. Grossi said. “It’s like an emergency device that we have developed to allow us to continue to carry out these surveillance activities.”

But, he added, it was better than the alternative of severe restrictions on inspectors that would leave the atomic agency “flying completely blind” and unable to assess whether Iran could run towards the capacity to. nuclear weapons. Iran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

In an analysis released Monday for Eurasia Group, a New York-based risk consultancy, Henry Rome, a senior analyst who focuses on Iran, wrote that the extension provided “another data point indicating that Tehran remains serious in reviving “the nuclear deal” Despite the frustration of the extremists. “

“The extension avoids a huge distraction in the discussions,” he added.

Mr Rome echoed the view of other analysts that a reinstatement of the nuclear deal seemed unlikely before Iran’s presidential election on June 18.

The fourth round of talks concluded in Vienna last week. They included the parties to the 2015 agreement, which also include Russia, China, Britain, France, and the European Union. Their goal is to persuade Iran to curtail its nuclear program in accordance with the deal and for the United States to lift the sanctions that are strangling Iran’s exports and oil economy.

Because Tehran refuses to negotiate directly with the United States on the 2015 agreement, which it claims Mr. Trump violated without cause, American negotiators are working from a nearby hotel and communicating with Iranian officials through intermediaries.

Appearing on ABC’s “This Week” Sunday, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said the talks had progressed, but suggested Tehran was delaying further progress.

“Iran, I think, knows what it needs to do to get back into compliance on the nuclear side. And what we haven’t seen yet is whether Iran is ready and willing to make a decision to do what it needs to do, ”he said. “This is the test, and we don’t have an answer yet.”

In response to Mr Blinken’s comment, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi, who heads the negotiating team, hit back on Twitter. He asked if the United States was ready to return to the deal by lifting sanctions and said Iran would revert to its full commitments once Washington does.

“The lifting of Trump’s sanctions is a legal and moral obligation,” Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said, tweeted on Sunday. “NO leverage trading.”

He added of the sanctions: “It didn’t work for Trump – won’t work for you.”

Iran has steadily expanded its nuclear program since Mr. Trump’s withdrawal from the deal. His government said on Monday that the stockpile of uranium enriched at higher levels had increased in the past four months.

Iran now has a stockpile of 2.5 kilograms of 60% enriched uranium, 90 kilograms of 20% enriched uranium and 5,000 kilograms of 5% enriched uranium, said Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the country’s Atomic Energy Organization, on state television. .

Uranium enriched to 60 percent purity is a relatively short stage of bomb fuel, which is generally considered 90 percent or more. While 60 percent enriched uranium can be used as fuel in civilian nuclear reactors, such applications have been discouraged around the world because it can easily be turned into bomb fuel.

The nuclear deal with world powers capped Iran’s enrichment and storage of nuclear materials at 2.2 kilograms of uranium enriched to a level of 3.7 percent.

Rick gladstone contribution to reports.

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