Iran’s Tuesday dismissed as “unfair and unbalanced" a report by the UN nuclear watchdog accusing Tehran of lack of cooperation over its past atomic activities.

In a press conference in Tehran, spokesman Saeed Khtibzadeh insisted that the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) report disclosed on Monday does not reflect “the reality of discussions between Iran and the Agency.”

The IAEA report expressed dissatisfaction in Iran’s answers to questions over its past atomic activities. Iran agreed March 5 to provide written explanations by March 20 of long-standing issues in its nuclear work before 2003, and to clear up remaining queries by June 21. But the new quarterly report by IAEA expresses dissatisfaction with Iran’s response to agency queries over four sites not declared as part of the nuclear program where inspectors detected traces of uranium.

"Iran has not provided explanations that are technically credible in relation to the Agency's findings at those locations," the report said. Mohammad Eslami, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said in April that Tehran had answered all the agency’s questions.

Khatibzadeh accused the IAEA of “politicizing” the issue and allowing pressures by “Zionists and some activists” to divert the agency’s response from a technical to a political one.

Khatibzadeh also was defiant on the issue of stalled nuclear talks with the United States, repeating Tehran’s position that Washington should make decisions to reinvigorate the negotiations in Vienna,

The diplomatic process was said to be close to fruition in early March when diplomats suddenly stopped the talks and returned to their capitals. One issue that has since been repeatedly mentioned as a major stumbling block is Iran’s insistence that its Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) should be removed from the US list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO).

The Biden administration has so far refused the demand, specially as domestic and Congressional pressure increased in March and April by those opposed to making concessions to Tehran for reviving the 2015 nuclear deal known as the JCPOA.

Khatibzadeh, however, tried to downplay the importance of the IRGC delisting issue, insisting that more important and all-encompassing is Iran’s economic benefits from an agreement. “Issues that are being negotiated between Iran and America are related to Iran’s potential economic benefits and lifting of all components of US maximum pressure,” the spokesman said.

Tehran has been lately downplaying the IRGC issue in the talks, perhaps partly because of its domestic ramifications amid increasing economic hardships for the average citizen. Iranians know that if there is a nuclear deal, economic sanctions would be lifted, and their living conditions would be improved somewhat. The authorities do not want the IRGC to be seen as the stumbling block to an agreement.

However, the powerful military and intelligence organization is also a major economic player in Iran and even if US oil export and banking sanctions are lifted, hundreds of companies linked with the IRGC would be seen as risky partners for foreign businesses and potential investors.

Besides IRGC’s FTO listing, dozens of companies and individuals linked with the Guards have been sanctioned by the US.

“What we should ultimately gain from an agreement is definite benefits for the Iranian people,” Khatibzadeh said and added, “Issues that remain between us and America are about guarantees, individuals and the cycle of Iran’s economic profits, which need to be implemented.”

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