As Iranian talks draw to a close, UN nuclear watchdog in Tehran | world news

By AMIR VAHDAT and JON GAMBRELL, Associated Press

TEhran, Iran (AP) — The head of the United Nations nuclear watchdog met with Iranian officials on Saturday as talks in Vienna over Tehran’s tattered atomic deal with world powers appear to be winding down.

The International Atomic Energy Agency’s Rafael Mariano Grossi described his weekend visit to Tehran as a way “to address outstanding issues” as negotiators in Europe appear to be hitting a deadline to see if the 2015 agreement can be revived.

“This is a critical moment but a positive outcome for everyone is possible,” Grossi wrote on Twitter ahead of his flight on Friday.

Grossi arrived Saturday for a meeting with Mohammad Eslami, the head of Iran’s Civil Atomic Energy Organization. He was later to see Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian.

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“Issues between us and the agency in general are expected to be discussed and how we will pursue different issues in the future,” Behrouz Kamalvandi, an AEOI spokesperson, told AFP. Iranian state television earlier on Saturday. “God willing, there will be understanding.

The nuclear deal saw Iran agree to drastically limit its uranium enrichment in exchange for the lifting of crippling economic sanctions. But a 2018 decision by then-President Donald Trump to unilaterally pull America out of the deal sparked years of tension and attacks across the Middle East.

Today, Tehran is enriching uranium up to 60% purity – its highest level ever and a short technical step from weapons-grade levels of 90% and well above the 3.67% ceiling of the nuclear deal. Its stockpile of enriched uranium also continues to grow, worrying nuclear nonproliferation experts that Iran could be closer to the threshold of having enough material for an atomic weapon if it chose to pursue one.

Iran has long denied seeking nuclear weapons. However, U.S. intelligence agencies, Western countries and the IAEA said Iran had conducted an organized nuclear weapons program until 2003. Grossi did not specify outstanding issues, but some of between them could deal with ongoing investigations into this program.

The 2015 deal saw the then IAEA Director General also come to Tehran and visit a suspected weapons program site in Parchin and collect samples for analysis.

Grossi’s inspectors also face challenges in monitoring Iran’s current progress on its civilian agenda. Iran has held IAEA surveillance camera footage since February 2021, not letting inspectors see it during nuclear negotiations.

In Vienna, negotiators appear to be signaling that a deal is near – even as Russia’s war against Ukraine rages on. Russia’s ambassador there, Mikhail Ulyanov, was a key mediator in the talks and tweeted on Thursday that the negotiations were “almost over”. This is also recognized by the French negotiator Philippe Errera.

“We hope to come back quickly to conclude because we are very, very close to an agreement,” Errera wrote on Twitter on Friday. “But nothing is agreed until EVERYTHING is agreed!”

British negotiator Stephanie Al-Qaq simply wrote: “We are close.

Gambrell reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

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