IAEA chief in Tehran: Iran agrees to more detailed nuclear inspections

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reaffirmed his country's right to protect itself against Iran's nuclear buildup.

IAEA chief in Tehran: Iran agrees to more detailed nuclear inspections

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reaffirmed his country's right to protect itself against Iran's nuclear buildup. Netanyahu was responding on Sunday to statements made by the Secretary General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Grossi, after a visit to Iran.

"The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Grossi, just said in Tehran that an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities is illegal. Against what law? Can Iran, which openly demands our destruction, defend the destructive weapons that would slaughter us?" , Netanyahu asked, according to his office. "May we defend ourselves? It is clear that we can and it is clear that we will." He spoke in this context of "discussions and actions around the clock". Netanyahu further stated: "I say this because nothing will stop us from defending our country and preventing our enemies from wiping out the Jewish state."

Grossi had agreed with Iran on Saturday to monitor nuclear plants more closely. This was announced by the IAEA and the Iranian nuclear organization AEOI on Saturday evening. IAEA chief Rafael Grossi had previously held talks with Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi in Tehran.

Tehran made the concessions just before the start of a regular session of the IAEA Board of Governors on Monday. The panel twice condemned Iran last year for lack of cooperation with the IAEA.

Uranium enrichment raises international concerns

Iran recently pushed ahead with the enrichment of uranium to a very high degree of purity of 60 percent. This fueled international concerns that this material could be processed into nuclear weapons. This would only require a slightly higher degree of 90 percent.

In addition, IAEA experts recently found traces of uranium with a purity of 84 percent in the nuclear facility in Fordow. Since then, the IAEA has been trying to clarify whether Iran deliberately reached this level, or whether it was an unintended, short-term spike, as Tehran has argued.

Last year, the IAEA experts had to dismantle cameras and other surveillance equipment in Iran. Grossi announced after his return from Tehran to Vienna that these should be back in operation shortly. The IAEA chief described the new agreement in a press conference as a "tie-down to stop information bleeding." Tehran is also allowing more frequent visits by inspectors to Fordow, Grossi said. However, details of the improved inspection mode still have to be clarified by the two sides, the joint statement said.

Unknown origin of radioactive material

Grossi had traveled to Iran to seek better access for IAEA inspectors. He also wanted to address questions about suspected secret nuclear activities in the past. The main concern is the unclear origin of traces of radioactive material in three places. Iran is ready to provide more information and allow inspections, the joint statement said. "So far we haven't gotten the cooperation we were looking for," said Grossi in Vienna. The years of talks on the open questions would now last "too long".

In an interview with the state news agency IRNA, the spokesman for the Iranian atomic energy organization AEOI, Behrus Kamalwandi, said inspectors would not be granted personal access to nuclear facilities. Checks at three locations where suspected radioactive traces were found were also not agreed, Kamalwandi said on Sunday.

In Tehran, Grossi spoke of a cooperative atmosphere on Saturday. Iran's nuclear chief said a plan had been drawn up with the IAEA to clarify the open issues. "We hope that Grossi's visit will lead to professional cooperation in the future," said Mohammed Eslami. According to him, Iran does not enrich uranium above 60 percent purity. Eslami announced an international nuclear conference in Tehran.

During his visit, Grossi also met Iranian President Raisi for the first time. Foreign Minister Hussein Amirabdollahian had previously received the IAEA chief. According to a statement by the Foreign Ministry, Amirabdollahian emphasized Iran's willingness to clarify technical issues relating to the controls of Iran's nuclear program as quickly as possible.

In 2015, Iran committed to restricting its nuclear program. In return, Western sanctions were lifted. The pact was intended to prevent the country from developing nuclear weapons. After the United States withdrew from the agreement in 2018 under then-President Donald Trump, Tehran reversed the restrictions. Negotiations to save the agreement are on hold. Iran has repeatedly asserted that its nuclear program is only used for civilian purposes.