IAEA director Rafael Grossi who arrived in Tehran Friday met with Iran's nuclear chief Mohammad Eslami amid concerns over highly enriched uranium found in Iran.
Grossi who will report to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) board of governors traveled to Iran for discussions over the origins of uranium particles enriched to 83.7% purity, which was identified after Iran implemented a new configuration in cascade of centrifuges at Fordow enrichment plant about 100 kilometers (60 miles) south of the capital.
Details of the meeting have not yet been released. Iranian officials have remained tight-lipped and Grossi usually speaks to reporters after he leaves Iran. He is also scheduled to meet with President Ebrahim Raisi.
Iran has been exceeding enrichment levels set by the 2015 nuclear deal (JCPOA) since 2019, after the United States withdrew from the agreement and imposed sanctions. But the excess enrichment had not exceeded 60-percent purity so far.
In addition to the new issue of highly enriched particles found, the IAEA also wants full explanation by Iran about traces of fissile material found from older nuclear sites.
Pundits say by inviting Grossi to Tehran ahead of an IAEA board meeting later this month Iran is seeking to prevent another censure resolution at the upcoming IAEA board meeting next week. Tehran wants to avoid further international isolation amid economic problems amid protests that have continued since late September despite the arrest of thousands and the killing of at least 500 protesters.
“We should completely give up the possibility of talks to revive the JCPOA if Mr. Grossi’s report to the board of directors is negative,” Ali Bigdeli, an international relations analyst in Tehran, told the Iranian Labour News Agency (ILNA) Friday.
Bigdeli added that there are considerable differences between Washington and Tehran over the extent of Iran's enrichment program because Tehran does not want to return to the enrichment levels it agreed to in 2015, therefore, he said, it is quite possible that any agreements in the near future be limited to prisoner exchange, the release of Iran's frozen funds, and respite from some sanctions instead of a full suspension of sanctions.
Other commentators have recently emphasized the urgency of shifting Tehran's foreign policy from a Russia and China axis to a more neutral position and avoid getting entangled in Russia's war on Ukraine. Otherwise, there will be no hope of reaching a deal with the West.
Iran’s Atomic Energy Agency claims that the 83.7 purity particles found could have been formed due to “unintended fluctuations in enrichment levels”.
Eslami said Wednesday that Iran and the IAEA solved the issue of 84% uranium and that a delegation from the UN nuclear watchdog traveled to Tehran to look into the issue. “It transpired that there were no deviations,” he claimed.
After a meeting with his Iraqi counterpart Fuad Hussein in Baghdad on February 22, Amir-Abdollahian said the message from the US side conveyed to him suggested that an agreement to revive the 2015 deal was within reach, while accusing the US of sending “positive diplomatic” followed by contradictory media messages.
The US state department, however, denied sending messages to Iran through Iraq. “Only Iranian officials can speak to why they continue to tell these lies. Iranian officials can repeat their line as often as they want, but it doesn’t change the underlying facts,” State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said in a news briefing February 27.
“A revival of the JCPOA has not been on the agenda for months. We have not conveyed any message to the contrary. I can’t speak to why Iranian officials may be trying to deceive the rest of the world,” Price stated.
Mehdi Motaharnia, political analyst, told Nameh News Wednesday that the Iranian officials’ very positive tone aims at preventing further depreciation of the national currency and calming the chaos in the forex market.