Rafael Grossi
Rafael Grossi Reuters

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director Rafael Grossi said on Wednesday that his agency is still trying to clarify answers from Iran on outstanding questions involving traces of human-made enriched uranium at three sites in the country.

Speaking to The Associated Press, Grossi acknowledged that Iran’s ability to enrich uranium since the collapse of the 2015 nuclear deal had expanded as it uses more-advanced centrifuges.

“They are transferring the centrifuge producing capacity to a place where they feel they are more protected,” Grossi said, in reference to Tehran having recently moved a centrifuge workshop to its underground Natanz nuclear facility after a suspected Israeli attack.

He called for Russia and the West to find “common denominators” that could allow the continuation of talks with Iran on a return to the deal.

“We cannot afford to stop. We have to continue. It’s in the world’s interest, it’s in their own interest that the nuclear situation … is successful. I cannot imagine a geostrategic scenario where more nuclear weapons, proliferation, in the Middle East would help anybody or anything,” Grossi told AP.

Last year, the IAEA found uranium particles at two Iranian sites it inspected after months of stonewalling.

Although the sites where the material was found are believed to have been inactive for nearly two decades, opponents of the 2015 nuclear deal Iran signed with world powers say evidence of undeclared nuclear activities shows that Iran has not been acting in good faith.

Iran said last month it had supplied the IAEA with documents explaining the discovery of suspect enriched uranium traces.

Grossi’s comments come as the indirect talks between the US and Iran appear to be stalled.

Iran has gradually scaled back its compliance with the 2015 deal, in response to former US President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the agreement in May of 2018, but has held several rounds of indirect talks with the US on a return to the agreement.

Negotiations nearly reached completion last month before Moscow demanded that its trade with Iran be exempted from Western sanctions over Ukraine, throwing the process into disarray.

Days later, Moscow said it had received the necessary guarantees.

On Monday, Iran called for a new meeting "as soon as possible" in the nuclear talks.

Among the key remaining sticking points in the talks is Iran's demand that Washington delist its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps from a US terror list.

Last month it was reported that the Biden administration is considering removing terrorism sanctions from the IRGC as part of negotiations to restore the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

However, a subsequent report in The Washington Post said that the Biden administration plans to reject the Iranian demand.

Last week, State Department spokesman Ned Price appeared to dismiss the Iranian demand regarding the IRGC blacklisting.

"If Iran wants sanctions lifting that goes beyond the JCPOA, they'll need to address concerns of ours that go beyond the JCPOA," Price said when asked about the issue.

"If they do not want to use these talks to resolve other bilateral issues, then we are confident we can very quickly reach an understanding on the JCPOA and begin to reimplement the deal itself," Price told reporters.