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Visit to Iran may ‘pave way’ for deal, says IAEA chief

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VIENNA: Head of the International Atomic Energy Agency said his trip on Saturday to Tehran could “pave the way” to reviving the Iranian nuclear deal, an agreement that would return the country’s oil exports to global markets.

But Iran said not to provide camera data to IAEA before Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) implementation as premature good news will not replace good agreement.

IAEA chief Rafael Mariano Grossi’s optimism was echoed by diplomats in Vienna, where they’ve been wrangling over the final few outstanding issues.

Mikhail Ulyanov, Russia’s envoy, said the sides were “on the finish line” with a deal possible within 48 hours. Other negotiators also said privately they expected an agreement by early next week.

Iran has demanded the International Atomic Energy Agency conclude its stalled probe of past nuclear work as part of any deal to reactivate the 2015 accord, which capped the Islamic Republic’s atomic program in exchange for sanctions relief.

Western negotiators have so far said that’s not possible because the IAEA works independently and they don’t have the power to short-circuit an investigation. But Grossi signaled Thursday in an interview with Bloomberg Television that while a “number of issues” need to be clarified before he can close the probe, a deal might be achieved.

“People cannot foresee a return to the JCPOA if there are unresolved issues with the IAEA,” said the Argentine diplomat. “This is why it is so important that we find a way forward. It doesn’t mean that I am going to solve this by traveling to Tehran over the weekend. It means we are going to try to see eye-to-eye, understand each other and see what needs to be done.

The Sticky Issues Holding Up a New Iran Nuclear Deal: QuickTake

Reviving the seven-year-old landmark nuclear agreement with Iran often referred to as the JCPOA would mean relief for global energy markets. Oil has surged to $116 a barrel amid Russia’s war on Ukraine and the reluctance of other oil-producing nations to significantly increase production.

But on the other side, Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh underlined premature good news will not replace good agreement.

“Vienna Talks still continue. The premature good news does not substitute good agreement,” Khatibzadeh tweeted on Thursday. 

“Nobody can say the deal is done until all the outstanding remaining issues are resolved. Extra efforts needed,” he added.

“Everybody is now focused on the final critical steps,” the Iranian foreign ministry spokesman further said.

Meanwhile, the Head of Iran’s mission in Vienna Mohammad Reza Ghaebi elaborated on the new report by the director-general of the IAEA on the verification process.

Ghaebi said that this is the first quarterly report of the director-general of IAEA in 2022 to the meeting of the Board of Governors in the field of monitoring the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in accordance with the resolution 2231 of the Security Council, which as in previous periods is the usual update report of the IAEA that informs the latest developments and new technical information related to Iran’s nuclear activities. 

The report states that the IAEA’s oversight and verification have been severely affected by the cessation of Iran’s nuclear commitments under JCPOA, including the halt of the additional protocol by Iran.

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