IAEA agrees to extend nuclear monitoring agreement by one month

The flag of Iran is seen in front of the building of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Headquarters ahead of a press conference by Rafael Grossi, Director General of the IAEA, about the agency’s monitoring of Iran’s nuclear energy program on May 24, 2021 in Vienna, Austria.

Michael Gruber | Getty Images News | Getty Images

LONDON — The United Nations nuclear watchdog on Monday said it has agreed with Iran to extend its monitoring agreement by one month.

Speaking at a news conference, International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said the new deal would run through to June 24.

It means information collected by technical equipment from different locations in Tehran would continue to be under the custody of the agency, Grossi said.

“I would say that if this understanding was important back in February, it was even in my eyes more important now,” he added, citing increased activity in Iran in recent months.

Separately, Iran’s envoy to the IAEA said on Monday that it had informed the agency that it had decided to extend a monitoring deal for one month, Reuters reported, attributing the website of Iranian newspaper Etemad.

Iran said Sunday that a three-month monitoring deal between the Islamic Republic and the IAEA had expired and the agency would no longer be able to access images from inside some Iranian nuclear sites.

‘This is not ideal’

The IAEA says its so-called Additional Protocol with Iran allows it to have broader access to information and locations in the country, “increasing its ability to verify the peaceful use of all nuclear material.”

There are 18 nuclear facilities in Iran and nine other locations under IAEA safeguards.

Late last year, Iran’s Parliament approved a bill that would suspend U.N. inspections of its nuclear facilities if European signatories did not provide relief from oil and banking sanctions by February.

The IAEA and Iran then reached a three-month deal to have the agency continue to monitor Tehran’s work, with Grossi warning at the time that the absence of the technical understanding would have been like “flying blind.”

When asked on Monday whether the agency was in effect flying blind for the next month amid concerns over reduced access to data, Grossi replied, “No.”

“I want to stress this is not ideal, all right?” he continued. “This is like an emergency device that we came up with in order for us to continue having these monitoring activities while at the same time recognizing the fact that, as you all remember, there was a law passed by the Islamic Republic of Iran suspending a number of rights.”

Iran and global powers are scheduled to resume talks in Vienna this week on reviving the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Former President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of the deal in 2018, reimposing sanctions on Iran.

Last month, Iran’s deputy foreign minister, Abbas Araghchi, said the country would start enriching uranium at 60% — a significant step toward weapons-grade material and far above levels agreed in the 2015 deal.

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