Iran to allow IAEA access to cameras in its atomic facilities

Iran nuclear deal updates

Iran has agreed to allow the UN’s nuclear watchdog access to surveillance cameras inside its atomic facilities in a largely symbolic move that offers some hope that Tehran’s new regime is open to a compromise deal with western powers.

The agreement, struck during a visit to Tehran by the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, may buy diplomats more time to make progress in talks with the Islamic Republic, by averting a move by IAEA governors to formally censure Iran at a meeting this week.

A 2015 agreement between Iran and western powers to lift economic sanctions on the country in exchange for curbs on Tehran’s nuclear programme collapsed after President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the pact in 2018.

Since 2019, Iran has increased its uranium enrichment to levels that the IAEA has warned are typically used for weapons production, amid efforts by Germany, France, the UK, China and Russia to find a new agreement that would allow the US to rejoin.

Following Sunday’s negotiations in Tehran, the IAEA has been granted permission “to service the identified equipment and replace their storage media”, the group and the Atomic Energy Organization of the Islamic Republic of Iran (AEOI) said in a joint statement.

While a sign of co-operation between the two sides, the statement said that the cameras’ memory cards would be sealed and kept in Iran, and contained no details on critical issues blocking any possible return to a global agreement, such as a potential reduction in the level of Iran’s uranium enrichment.

The head of the AEOI, Mohammad Eslami, said talks with IAEA director-general Rafael Grossi were “constructive”, and that Iran “will continue talks on the sidelines” of the IAEA meeting in Vienna this week.

Eslami added that Grossi would also visit Tehran again “in the near future” to discuss technical issues on changing the memory cards of the surveillance cameras. “What matters to us is building trust and to have mutual trust,” he added.

The positive step raises the likelihood that Tehran will escape formal punishment by the IAEA at this week’s meeting, where it had been expected to be censured for failing to co-operate with an investigation into traces of uranium found at undeclared nuclear sites.

The Iranian government, under new hardline president Ebrahim Raisi, had previously warned that censure would scupper talks on any possible new nuclear deal.

“This is a positive step towards ensuring continuity of knowledge on Iran’s nuclear programme,” Enrique Mora, political director of the EU’s foreign service, wrote of Sunday’s agreement on Twitter. “Gives space for diplomacy.”

Mikhail Ulyanov, Russia’s permanent representative to the IAEA and other Vienna-based international bodies, hailed Sunday’s agreement as “technical but very important.”

“Pleased to note that on these points Russia and EU are like-minded . . . We call for an earliest resumption of Vienna talks on restoration of JCPOA,” he wrote, referring to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.

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