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IAEA Chief Says Working On Reaching Agreement With Iran On Safeguards Verification

IRAN -- Iranian atomic organisation chief Ali Akbar Salehi (L) and Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Rafael Mariano Grossi attend a joint press conference in Tehran, August 25, 2020

Rafael Grossi, the Chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said on Tuesday during his visit to Iran that the agency is working on reaching an agreement on the nuclear watchdog's oversight capabilities in Iran.

"This morning I met with Iran’s Vice-President and Head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Dr Salehi,” Grossi tweeted. “We are working on reaching an agreement on IAEA's safeguards verification activities in Iran.”

In a joint press conference after the meeting with Grossi, Iran nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi called the talks "constructive" and said "a new chapter has opened with this visit.” Salehi also suggested that the issues between Iran and IAEA will be resolved "in the appropriate manner".

Grossi has prioritized gaining IAEA access to two Iranian sites where suspected nuclear activities may have taken place, both in the southern outskirts of the capital city of Tehran.

The information on the two sites, which was provided to the agency by Israel, is based on the contents of a nuclear archive that Israel obtained through its spies in 2017. Iranian authorities previously blamed the sites’ access issues on its enemies, with the country barring IAEA inspectors from the sites even when compelled by a unanimous resolution of the U.N. agency's board of directors on June 19, resulting in a month-long standoff.

Iran's representative to the IAEA, Kazeem Gharibabadi, previously characterized the resolution of the board of directors, the first since 2012, as "non-constructive," and promised that Iran would show appropriate reaction to the resolution "at the right time.” Since then, Iran's tone has changed, and the IAEA seems likely to gain access to the disputed sites, following recent moves by the United States to restore U.N. sanctions on Iran.

The June resolution was submitted to the board by the United Kingdom, France and Germany, and called on Tehran to provide IAEA inspectors access to the suspected sites in order to verify possible traces of unauthorized and undeclared nuclear material and activity between 2000 and 2003.

Grossi, who has taken a tough stance on Iran so far, was asked by a reporter during Tuesday’s press conference about his alleged "political approach" in IAEA's dealings with Iran. Grossi responded that the agency's approach has not changed since his appointment as head of the agency in December 2019, and he himself has no political agenda in the matter.

Grossi also stressed that the IAEA's relations with member countries are not "influenced by third parties" and said his organization prepares its reports "systematically, with sensitivity and detail.”