By Parisa Hafezi
DUBAI (Reuters) -U.N. nuclear watchdog chief Rafael Grossi will visit Iran “probably soon”, the Iranian foreign ministry spokesman said on Monday, as Tehran and world powers prepare to resume talks on reviving a 2015 nuclear deal.
“Grossi has been invited to travel to Tehran. A date has been set in this regard and we are waiting for his response to the specified date. He will visit Iran probably soon,” Saeed Khatibzadeh told a weekly news conference.
“God willing, Grossi will meet Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian and the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation during his visit.”
Confirming the invitation to Grossi, the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in a statement that dates for the visit were being finalised.
Khatibzadeh did not make clear whether Grossi’s trip would take place before next week’s meeting of the IAEA’s 35-nation Board of Governors.
Western powers scrapped plans in September for a board resolution criticising Iran after Tehran agreed on Sept. 12 to prolong monitoring of some nuclear activities and invited Grossi to Tehran for talks on outstanding issues.
But the powers are still demanding Iranian action on two central issues – explaining uranium traces found at three undeclared sites and granting IAEA inspectors access to the TESA Karaj centrifuge component manufacturing workshop to replace the agency’s monitoring cameras there.
The workshop was the victim of apparent sabotage in June in which one of four IAEA cameras there was destroyed. Iran has not returned that camera’s “data storage medium” and the IAEA said it had asked Iran to locate it and explain.
Tensions between Tehran and the IAEA over the unresolved matters could hamper talks on the wider nuclear containment deal between Tehran and the powers that are to resume on Nov. 29.
Negotiations to salvage the pact, which started in April, were halted after the June election of hardline Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi.
In 2018, then-U.S. President Donald Trump abandoned the deal and reimposed sanctions on Iran. Tehran responded by breaching key limits on nuclear activity set by the accord, including rebuilding stockpiles of enriched uranium, refining it to higher fissile purity and installing advanced centrifuges to speed up output.
Despite six rounds of indirect talks, Tehran and U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration still disagree on which steps need to be taken and when to salvage the accord. The main disputes touch on what nuclear limits Tehran will accept and what sanctions Washington will remove.
(Additional reporting by Francois Murphy in ViennaWriting by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Angus Macswan and Mark Heinrich)