RFL/RE – The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Grossi, has met with Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the civilian Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, ahead of Tehran’s February 23 deadline to reduce United Nations inspections of the country’s nuclear facilities if U.S. sanctions are not lifted, Iranian media reported on February 21.
Iran has said that it would stop implementing “voluntary transparency measures” under the 2015 nuclear agreement with major powers, including the so-called Additional Protocol, which allows IAEA inspectors to visit undeclared sites in Iran at short notice. Tehran has said that the steps are reversible.
The International Atomic Energy Agency said last week that Grossi’s visit to Tehran was aimed at finding “a mutually agreeable solution for the IAEA to continue essential verification activities in the country.”
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the cameras of the IAEA would be shut off despite Grossi’s visit to follow a law passed by the country’s hard-line parliament.
“This is not a deadline for the world. This is not an ultimatum,” Zarif told the state-run, English-language broadcaster Press TV in an interview aired during Grossi’s visit. “This is an internal domestic issue between the parliament and the government.”
“We are supposed to implement the laws of the country. And the parliament adopted legislation, whether we like it or not.”
Iran’s parliament in December approved a bill that would suspend part of UN inspections of its nuclear facilities if the country does not receive sanctions relief.
Iran has stressed it will not cease working with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) or expel its inspectors.
Iran and six major powers struck a landmark nuclear deal in 2015 that called for curbs on Iran’s uranium-enrichment program in return for the lifting of international sanctions.
But President Donald Trump in May 2018 pulled his country out of the accord and reimposed crippling sanctions on Iran, saying the terms were not strict enough.
In response, Tehran has gradually breached the deal by building up its stockpile of low-enriched uranium, refining uranium to a higher level of purity, and using advanced centrifuges for enrichment.
The administration of President Joe Biden is exploring ways to return to the deal.
The White House said on February 19 that the European Union has floated the idea of a conversation among Iran and the six major powers that signed the deal.
On the same day, Biden said that Washington is prepared to reengage with the international partners that signed the deal on Iran’s nuclear program.
Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said on February 20 that his country is considering the European Union’s offer to host a meeting between Iran and the other parties to the 2015 nuclear deal.
“Now we are considering [the offer],and are engaged in consultations with our other friends and partners like China and Russia,” Araqchi was quoted as saying by Iranian media.
“However, we believe a U.S return to the nuclear accord does not require a meeting and the only way for it is to lift the sanctions,” Araqchi said.