Rafael Grossi
Rafael GrossiReuters

The head of the United Nations nuclear watchdog warned on Tuesday that the restrictions faced by his inspectors in Iran threaten to give the world only a “very blurred image” of Iran’s nuclear program as it enriches uranium closer than ever to weapons-grade levels.

Speaking in a wide-ranging interview to The Associated Press, Rafael Grossi said he wanted to tell Iran that there was “no way around” his inspectors at the International Atomic Energy Agency if the Islamic Republic wanted to be “a respected country in the community of nations.”

“We have to work together,” Grossi said. “They must work together. I will make sure they understand that in us they will have a partner.”

“If the international community through us, through the IAEA, is not seeing clearly how many centrifuges or what is the capacity that they may have ... what you have is a very blurred image,” Grossi added. “It will give you the illusion of the real image. But not the real image. This is why this is so important.”

Grossi dismissed as “simply absurd” an Iranian allegation that saboteurs used the IAEA’s cameras in a June attack on the Karaj centrifuge site, near Tehran.

On the nuclear talks between Iran and world powers in Vienna, Grossi stressed he wasn’t involved in the negotiations but acknowledged the advances made by Iran since the deal’s collapse meant there would have to be changes to the original agreement.

“The reality is that we are dealing with a very different Iran,” he said. “2022 is so different from 2015 that there will have to be adjustments that take into consideration these new realities so our inspectors can inspect whatever the countries agree at the political table.”

The interview follows last week’s resumption of talks between Iran and world powers on salvaging the 2015 nuclear deal, after a five-month pause.

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.

Iran has repeatedly demanded that the US lift sanctions imposed on Iran and also reassure Iran it will not abandon the deal again as a precondition for its returning to compliance with the deal.

On Monday, diplomats from the western European countries negotiating with Tehran said that Iran's positions in the talks are "inconsistent" with the terms of the deal.

On Sunday, British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss told Iran that there was still time to save the 2015 nuclear deal but warned that this is the last chance for Iranian negotiators to come to the table with serious proposals.

"This is the last chance for Iran to come to the negotiating table with a serious resolution to this issue, which has to be agreeing the terms of the JCPOA," said Truss, adding, "This is their last chance and it is vital that they do so. We will not allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon."