UN nuclear chief heads to Iran for talks ahead of key meeting
Rafael Grossi, director general of the UN nuclear watchdog, will hold talks with Iranian officials on Sunday as the International Atomic Energy Agency considers actions against Iran.
Iran invited Grossi to Tehran ahead of a crucial meeting of the Vienna-based agency’s board of governors that starts on Monday.
IAEA envoys will discuss Tehran’s rapidly expanding nuclear programme. European diplomats have been considering whether to advance a resolution censuring Iran for its lack of cooperation with agency monitors.
The Islamic Republic has warned that such a move would undermine negotiations focused on reining in its atomic output in return for relief from economic sanctions.
Those talks, though, stalled over the summer and especially after Iran’s election of a hardline cleric, Ebrahim Raisi, as president.
The US and Europe have been trying to coax Iran back to the table as soon as this month. Informal talks are likely on the sidelines of the IAEA’s general conference the week of September 21.
Grossi will meet the new head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation, Mohammad Eslami, who replaced Ali Akbar Salehi in late August.
The two sides are likely to issue a joint statement, the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency reported, citing Kazem Gharibabadi, Iran’s envoy at the IAEA.
Grossi is also expected to hold a press conference at Vienna airport on Sunday evening.
Reuters reported Grossi’s visit to Tehran earlier on Saturday. The IAEA official has recently been trying to set up talks with Eslami to gauge Tehran’s willingness to restore expanded access for the agency’s monitors, Bloomberg News reported on September 3.
Raisi, who was sworn in in August, warned the UN watchdog against “confrontation” earlier this month.
On Saturday, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh urged the IAEA to keep Sunday’s talks within “a technical and professional framework” and avoid politicising issues, according to the Fars news agency.
IAEA inspectors this week reported that Iran had increased its stockpile of enriched uranium close to the levels needed for weapons and was expanding its production capacity.
©2021 Bloomberg L.P.