The head of the UN nuclear watchdog Rafael Grossi will travel to Tehran on Saturday, to discuss unresolved safeguards issues as nuclear talks reach an endgame.
Nour news in Tehran said, which has in recent months several times broke news regarding the Vienna nuclear talks, said, Grossi was looking to help to restore the 2015 Iran nuclear with "a roadmap to resolve existing safeguard issues."
According to Nour News, which is close to Iran's Supreme National Security Council (SNSC), Grossi will meet with the head of Atomic Energy Organization of Iran and possibly other officials.
"Safeguards issues between Iran and the IAEA have turned into one of the main factors in slowing the Vienna talks," Nour News said. "Interactions between Iran and the IAEA are noticeably improving."
In recent days, the outstanding issue of Iranian nuclear work before 2003, a “safeguards issue” rather than one directly linked to the 2015 deal, has reportedly emerged as a sticking-point in Vienna, where Iran’s talks with world powers since last April are striving to revive the 2015 deal, the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action). Iran has “safeguards” commitments as a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty.
The IAEA has sought explanations from Tehran over uranium traces found at four undeclared sites, with some analysts linking the issue to equipment supplied by Pakistani scientist AQ Khan previously used in the Pakistani nuclear program.
Nour News claimed that Grossi was backing off from pressing the issue, which Tehran has said is politically motivated. This was, Nour suggested, "one of the signs of improvement in the process of the said interactions.”
Grossi told reporters in Vienna Wednesday that the agency was "working very hard" on its next quarterly report. He visited Tehran immediately before the agency's last quarterly report in November. After his visit he said his talks had been inconclusive in resolving the pre-2003 issues.
Sources close to the negotiations told Iran International Wednesday that Tehran had demanded western powers ask the IAEA to drop the matter. Grossi said Wednesday the issue could be resolved "without politicizing" the matter or making it conditional on other issues.
The lead negotiator of the United Kingdom – one of three western European powers in the Vienna talks – has portrayed the pre-2003 work as unrelated to reviving the JCPOA, saying the UK stance if supported by France and Germany. "With our partners, the E3 fully supports the independence of the IAEA and the professional efforts of DG [director-general] Grossi. Safeguards are a fundamental part of the non-proliferation system and are separate to the JCPOA," Stephanie Al-Qaq tweeted Tuesday.
Ali Shamkhani, secretary of the SNSC, tweeted Thursday that time was running out to revive the JCPOA. "Strategy of active resistance defeated Trump's policy of maximum pressure confessing by current US administration,” he wrote. “If Vienna Talks do not lead to a good deal, current US administration will feel defeated in near future due to lack of timely use of diplomatic opportunities.”
On Wednesday Gabriel Noronha, a US State Department official under former president Donald Trump, who withdrew the US from the JCPOA in 2018, launched a series of tweets attacking Rob Malley, US special envoy for Iran, for allegedly preparing to lift ‘terrorism’ sanctions on Iran. He said unnamed US and EU officials has asked him to reveal details about concession Malley made to Iran.
Iranian officials and media on Thursday remained silent about Noronha’s claim.