Iran invites IAEA chief for talks

UN nuclear watchdog chief Rafael Grossi last week expressed concern over a lack of contact with Iranian authorities.

Elad Benari ,

Rafael Grossi
Rafael Grossi

Iran said on Monday it has invited the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for talks after he expressed concern over a lack of contact with Iranian authorities, AFP reported.

UN nuclear watchdog chief Rafael Grossi “has been invited” to Tehran and a visit date has been put forward, foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said, without providing specifics on the possible timing of the trip.

Grossi is expected to meet with Iran’s Foreign Minister and the country’s atomic energy chief, Khatibzadeh told journalists, adding, “we await his response”.

The invitation to Grossi comes days after he said it was “astonishing” that he has had no contact with the new Iranian government over several important outstanding issues since it took office.

Grossi had been hoping to visit Iran before the next meeting of the IAEA’s Board of Governors starts on November 22, but made clear he was disappointed that no invitation had yet been forthcoming.

“I have not had any contact with this government... that has been there for more than five months,” Grossi told reporters on Friday, adding that the only exceptions had been “technical conversations” with Iran’s new atomic energy chief Mohamed Eslami.

“This is astonishing and I am saying it openly because I’m saying it to them. There’s a long list of things we need to discuss,” added Grossi.

The IAEA chief previously said he planned to visit Iran before the end of November to discuss and hopefully resolve specific concerns about Iran’s nuclear program.

Grossi visited Iran in September, where he reached an agreement with the government over access to surveillance equipment at Iranian nuclear facilities.

His comments came ahead of the restarting of talks on the restoration of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

Iran has gradually scaled back its compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal it signed with world powers in response to former US President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the agreement in May of 2018.

The previous Iranian government, headed by former President Hassan Rouhani, had been holding indirect talks with the Biden administration on a return to the agreement.

The negotiations were adjourned on June 20, two days after Ebrahim Raisi won Iran's presidential election.

Two weeks ago, an Iranian diplomat said that the negotiations will restart November 29 in Vienna.

A spokesman for Iran’s Foreign Ministry later demanded that the US lift sanctions imposed on Iran as part of the nuclear talks and also reassure Iran it will not abandon the deal again.