Iran agrees to visit by UN nuclear watchdog as diplomatic clash looms

Iran has agreed to a visit by a UN nuclear watchdog to begin responding to the agency about the origin of uranium particles found at three sites, Reuters reported, citing an IAEA report on Thursday.

According to Reuters, Iran has yet to provide new material but its offer came before next week’s quarterly meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) Board of Governors at which diplomats say they expect Western powers to push for a resolution calling on Iran to cooperate.

Many diplomats see Iran’s offer as a thinly veiled attempt to reduce support for another resolution after a similar one was passed in June, though in the absence of tangible progress there is little to suggest Tehran’s move would scupper a push to formally criticize it at the board.

“(IAEA chief Rafael Grossi) takes note of Iran’s proposal to hold a further technical meeting with senior Agency officials in Tehran before the end of the month, but stresses that this meeting should be aimed at effectively clarifying and resolving those issues,” one of two confidential IAEA reports on Iran sent to member states on Thursday ahead of the board meeting said, Reuters reported.

The IAEA “expects to start receiving from Iran technically credible explanations on these issues, including access to locations and material, as well as the taking of samples as appropriate”, it added.

A senior diplomat said the Vienna-based agency hoped the meeting would be the start of a process leading to answers but concrete progress was also needed at the meeting itself.

The issue has become an obstacle in wider talks to revive Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, since Tehran has demanded a closure of the IAEA’s investigation in those talks.

The IAEA has said it will not yield to political pressure and its job is to account for all nuclear material. The fact material that has not been accounted for appears to have been present at these sites is therefore an issue it must keep looking into until it is resolved.

“You can see the pattern of Iran is always similar. Every board there is something they try to do just before the board. Historically you see a pattern,” the senior diplomat said when asked about the planned meeting in Tehran, pointing to previous meetings and offers preceding Board of Governors sessions.