Iran nuclear deal: Raisi says revival hinges on UN halting probe into undeclared sites

Iranian president raises the issue during televised address marking a year in office

In his televised address Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said that unless 'safeguard issues' are resolved, 'a nuclear agreement has no meaning'. AP
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Reviving Tehran's 2015 nuclear deal with world powers is dependent on the UN halting investigations into traces of uranium found at undeclared sites, Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi has said.

Mr Raisi raised the issue of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action during a two-hour televised address on Monday, marking a year since he took office.

Iran is expected to respond in the coming days to US comments on an EU draft of a revised deal aimed at salvaging the agreement. Talks have been taking place since last year.

While several issues appear resolved, the International Atomic Energy Agency — the UN's nuclear watchdog — is seeking an explanation from Tehran over traces of human-made uranium discovered at sites that are not among its declared nuclear facilities.

“Without settlement of safeguard issues, speaking about an agreement has no meaning,” Mr Raisi said, using terminology from Iran's agreement with the IAEA as a member of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

“We insist on verification and confidence-building measures during the course of negotiations. We also emphasise the full resolution of safeguard issues.”

Mr Raisi reiterated that Iran had no intention of producing nuclear weapons, which the 2015 agreement was intended to prevent through subjecting Tehran nuclear programme to curbs and IAEA monitoring. In exchange, sanctions against Iran were lifted.

“We have stated time and again, that nuclear weapons have no place in our nuclear doctrine,” he said.

The attempt to revive the nuclear pact — which collapsed after former US president Donald Trump withdrew his country in 2018 over security concerns — is in its last phase, as Iran considers the US comments.

There had been a number of sticking points, including Iran's insistence that its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps are removed from the US list of terrorist groups.

The US said Iran has dropped this request.

As part of the deal, the US would remove sanctions imposed on Iran by Mr Trump after the US withdrew from the JPCOA.

Mr Raisi said the US sanctions aimed at Iran's economy had “fallen flat”, state-owned news network PressTV reported.

“We do not recognise any limitations for ourselves in this regard,” he said.

A satellite image of the Iran's alleged Sanjarian nuclear facility, east of Tehran. AFP

Mr Raisi also hit back at claims that Iran had become alienated in recent years as a result of the US restrictions.

“The level of our interactions with regional countries has increased up to five times,” he said.

“Our oil exports are in a state where we feel we should do our best and continue to export oil and non-oil commodities.”

Iranian state news agency Nour News, which is aligned to the country's Supreme National Security Council, said Iran's review of the US comments on a revived agreement will take at least until Friday.

Israel, which opposed the 2015 deal and is warning against its revival, will send the head of its Mossad spy agency to the US for “closed-door meetings in Congress on the Iran deal”, an official told AFP.

Defence Minister Benny Gantz visited Washington last week and met senior officials to seek assurances on countering Iran ahead of a potential new deal.

Israel's National Security Adviser Eyal Hulata also held meetings with US administration officials on the agreement.

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid said a new agreement would need an expiration date and tighter oversight.

It should also “address Iran's ballistic missile programme and its involvement in terrorism throughout the Middle East”.

Iran backs the Hezbollah group in Lebanon and Houthi rebels in Yemen.

In June, Israel said Turkey had foiled an Iranian plot against Israeli tourists in Istanbul. The claim was dismissed as “ridiculous” by Tehran.

“We can reach such an agreement if a credible military threat is put on the table, if the Iranians realise that their defiance and deceit will exact a heavy price,” Mr Lapid said.

Israel has said that it is prepared for any scenario.

Mr Lapid said a new deal would “give Iran $100 billion a year” to fund its expansionist operations in the region through militant groups.

Mr Raisi dismissed Israel's objections in his speech on Monday.

“The Zionist regime has long been opposed to Iran acquiring the right [to nuclear technology]. But this know-how has been indigenised in our country, and cannot be taken from us in any way,” he said.

Updated: August 29, 2022, 4:38 PM