IAEA chief to visit Iran in boost for nuclear deal, Iranian media says

Rafael Grossi expected to visit Tehran on Saturday as negotiators in Vienna seek to restore an agreement

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A visit to Iran by the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) could spark a revival of Iran's 2015 nuclear agreement, Iranian media reports.

Rafael Grossi, head of the Vienna-based UN nuclear watchdog, will visit Tehran on Saturday, according to Iran news agency Nournews.

It comes as negotiators in Vienna seek to restore an agreement between the US and Iran on the deal.

Progress has been made, but a key sticking point is Iran wants the issue of uranium traces found at several old but undeclared sites in Iran to be dropped and closed forever, an Iranian official told Reuters.

"If Grossi's trip could help the agency and Tehran to reach a roadmap to resolve existing safeguard issues, it can help revival of the nuclear deal in Vienna," Nournews said in its report, without citing a source.

The IAEA last year reported Iran had failed to explain the uranium traces in its "safeguards declarations" to the agency.

The report of Grossi's trip comes as negotiators appear to be in the final stages of trying to restore the nuclear agreement.

Former president Donald Trump pulled the US out of the deal in 2018 and reimposed tough economic sanctions. That led Iran to breach the nuclear limits of the deal, which was designed to make it harder for Tehran to obtain the fissile material for a nuclear bomb. Iran denies any such ambition.

Iran will push to defend its interests by securing a reliable nuclear deal, Ali Shamkhani, head of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, told Iranian lawmakers, according to Nournews.

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"Bitter experience with the US breach of promises and European inaction have made it inevitable," he said.

Three Iranian officials close to the talks said a wide array of sanctions including those keeping Iran from exporting its oil and those on Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Ebrahim Raisi were to be removed if the 2015 pact is revived.

Russian envoy Mikhail Ulyanov told Reuters "we are one minute from the finish line" on the talks.

Updated: March 03, 2022, 7:21 AM