UPDATES WITH MORE DETAILS, MEETING BETWEEN ROSSI AND RAISI
By Syed Zafar Mehdi
TEHRAN (AA) - Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi said Tehran expects the UN nuclear agency to carry out its mandate without coming under the "political influence" of powers that be.
Raisi made the remarks in a meeting with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Rafael Grossi, who is on a two-day visit to Tehran.
Raisi, as cited by Iran's state media, told Grossi that Tehran expects the UN nuclear body to be "wholly professional" and not allow political powers to influence its activities.
Iran's president singled out the US and Israel as countries that have "used nuclear issue as an excuse to put pressure on the Iranian nation" while indicting Israel for not signing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
For his part, Grossi was quoted as saying that "ill-wishers" are not in favor of bilateral cooperation between the IAEA and Iran, without elaborating.
In a Twitter post after their meeting, Iranian president's deputy chief of staff, Mohammad Jamshid, said Grossi "expressed satisfaction with a common agenda reached to pave the way for cooperation."
"President Raisi called cooperation a two-way street that continues based on the agency's independence and fulfillment of the rights of the Iranian nation," he wrote.
On day two of his visit, Grossi also held talks with Iran's foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, the ministry said, with both "reviewing cooperation."
Iran's top diplomat, the ministry said, "emphasized the serious will of the Islamic Republic of Iran to solve the technical issues" between Tehran and IAEA.
Grossi "stressed the importance of diplomacy and dialogue to solve issues" and welcomed "any constructive initiative to help the progress and conclusion of the Vienna negotiations."
- Resolution of issues
Earlier in the day, at a joint press conference with Iran's nuclear agency chief Mohammad Eslami, Grossi said Iran and the UN nuclear watchdog are "cooperating and moving forward" to resolve outstanding issues related to the country's nuclear program.
Emphasizing "transparency," Grossi said the two sides must work together closely on "guarantees and assurances" regarding Iran's nuclear program.
His visit comes amid a stalemate in talks aimed at the revival of the 2015 nuclear deal, known officially as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), with cooperation between Iran and the IAEA emerging as one of the key sticking points.
Recent reports about Iran ramping up uranium enrichment up to 84% purity, based on a leaked report by an IAEA inspector, have also fueled tension between the two sides and sparked international concerns.
Iran dismissed findings in the IAEA leaked report as a "mistake" and said the IAEA inspector in a follow-up visit "rectified" it.
The UN nuclear watchdog probe into what it claims are traces of uranium found at "three undeclared nuclear sites" in Iran has also been a bone of contention between Iran and the West, complicating efforts to revive the nuclear deal that the US abandoned in 2018.
Grossi told reporters on Saturday that the two sides are "working hard" to resolve the issue related to the "undeclared sites," adding that the leak of IAEA reports makes him "angry and disappointed."
- 'IAEA not a political tool'
Asked to comment on sabotage attacks on Iran's nuclear facilities, which Iran has mostly blamed on Israel, the UN nuclear agency chief said any "military action" on nuclear power plants is "condemnable" and "illegal."
He also deflected criticism about the UN agency's "non-political approach," as alleged by Iran, stressing that it is "important and necessary" for Tehran and the IAEA to "communicate more directly so that other countries are not allowed to influence."
"The agency has never been used as a political tool. We have a board of governors and we don't take orders from anyone," Grossi hastened to add, obliquely referring to the US and Israel.
On why the agency does not monitor nuclear sites in Israel, the IAEA chief said inspections are based on agreements under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which Iran has signed but Israel has not, insisting that all countries "should sign the treaty."
Eslami, for his part, said Grossi's visit, the first since March last year, is a message to boost communications and ties between the agency and Iran, adding that some countries seek to "disrupt" their cooperation.
On the possibility of an anti-Iran resolution at the IAEA's upcoming quarterly board of governors meeting, Iran's nuclear agency chief said a decision on counter-measures will be taken if it takes place, adding the cooperation between them will continue.
He also accused other signatories to the 2015 nuclear deal, namely the US and the European troika of the UK, France and Germany, of "not fulfilling their commitments" under the agreement, which he said prompted Tehran to scale up back its commitments and ramp up enrichment.
The nuclear deal talks, underway in Vienna since April 2021, are stalled since last August over issues related to Iran's cooperation with the IAEA, reports about Iran's drone supply to Russia and recent months-long protests in Iran.
Western countries have imposed a slew of sanctions on Iranian officials and entities in recent months, mostly related to protests in the country and drone shipments to Russia.