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UN nuclear chief travels to Iran

TEHRAN — UN nuclear watchdog chief Rafael Grossi is expected in Tehran later Friday for talks with officials after his agency’s inspectors found uranium particles in Iran enriched to just below weapons-grade levels.

The visit by the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency comes in connection with the Vienna-based organization trying to persuade Iran to cooperate more on its nuclear activities.

A confidential IAEA report provided to AFP on Tuesday said uranium particles with an enrichment of up to 83.7 percent – just below the 90 percent needed to make a nuclear bomb – were found in Iran’s underground Fordow facility was discovered about 100 kilometers (60 miles) south of the capital.

Tehran denies wanting to acquire nuclear weapons and said last week it has made no attempt to enrich uranium beyond 60 percent purity, noting that “unintended fluctuations… may have occurred” during the enrichment process.

The discovery came after Iran significantly altered a link between two uranium-enriching centrifuge clusters, without telling the IAEA.

The IAEA tweeted Thursday that Grossi would “travel to Tehran at the invitation of the Iranian government for high-level meetings.”

Iran’s Fars news agency said the IAEA director-general would arrive in Tehran on Friday evening ahead of meetings scheduled for Saturday.

A diplomatic source told AFP that Grossi will also meet with President Ebrahim Raisi to “resume dialogue” on Iran’s nuclear work and “reinvigorate ties at the highest level.”

The IAEA chief’s visit comes amid an impasse in negotiations to revive the 2015 deal that promised Iran an exemption from harsh economic sanctions in exchange for curbing its nuclear activities.

“Enhanced Cooperation”

These restrictions, including the 3.67 percent enrichment threshold stipulated in the agreement, were intended to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.

However, the United States unilaterally withdrew from the deal in 2018 under then-President Donald Trump and re-imposed sanctions, prompting Iran to suspend implementation of its own commitments under the deal.

Negotiations to revive the deal — officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA — began in 2021 but have stalled since last year.

Grossi’s visit is seen in Iran as another indication that a diplomatic approach to resolving the nuclear standoff is possible.

“We hope this trip lays the foundation for closer cooperation and clearer horizons between Iran and the IAEA,” said Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesman for the Atomic Energy Agency of Iran.

Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said in an interview with CNN that “the window for an agreement on negotiations to lift sanctions is still open, but this window will not be open forever”.

Depending on the outcome of Grossi’s trip, the United States and the E3 – European powers Britain, France and Germany – will decide whether to submit a draft resolution on Iran defiance to the IAEA Board of Governors, due to meet in Vienna next week.

In November 2022, Iran was criticized for a lack of cooperation regarding traces of enriched uranium found at three undeclared sites.

Grossi’s last visit to Iran took place in early March 2022 and focused on the three undeclared sites.

The IAEA said Grossi would hold a press conference after his return to Vienna late Saturday afternoon.

Source: Crypto News Deutsch

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