Iran nuclear chief rejects IAEA demand to access Karaj site, says beyond safeguards

Iran nuclear chief rejects IAEA demand to access Karaj site, says beyond safeguards

VIENNA: Iran’s nuclear chief said on Tuesday demands by the UN nuclear watchdog IAEA for access to the Karaj workshop are beyond safeguards and unacceptable to Tehran, the semi-official news agency ISNA reported.

“Karaj … is outside of safeguards … We act within the framework of safeguards and NPT (nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty) and do not accept anything else,” the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, Mohammad Eslami, said.

“The Karaj issue is closed, and the alleged cases and Karaj are interconnected and must be resolved together,” he said.

Tehran also accused Western parties to its 2015 nuclear deal on Tuesday of “persisting in their blame game,” a day after European diplomats warned the pact would soon become defunct if efforts to revive it fail.

In a pessimistic assessment of talks between Iran and major powers in Vienna, diplomats from Britain, France and Germany warned on Monday that “time is running out” to rescue the pact, which they said would very soon become “an empty shell” without progress in negotiations.

Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, Ali Bagheri Kani, responded on Twitter by saying: “Some actors persist in their blame game habit, instead of real diplomacy. We proposed our ideas early, and worked constructively and flexibly to narrow gaps.”

Referring to the United States and its withdrawal from the nuclear pact in 2018, Kani wrote: “Diplomacy is a two-way street. If there’s real will to remedy the culprit’s wrongdoing, the way for a quick, good deal will be paved.”

However, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Tuesday that Washington continues to pursue diplomacy with Iran because “it remains, at this moment, the best option,” but added that it was “actively engaging with allies and partners on alternatives.”

Indirect talks between arch-foes Iran and the United States started in April, but stopped in June after the election of hard-line cleric Ebrahim Raisi, whose negotiating team has returned to Vienna after five months with an uncompromising stance.

In 2019, Iran started breaching nuclear restrictions under the pact in response to the US withdrawal and decision to reimpose harsh sanctions which have devastated Iran’s economy.

During the seventh round of talks, which began on Nov. 29, Iran abandoned any compromises it had made in the previous six, and demanded more, a senior US official has said.

With significant gaps remaining between Iran and the United States on some key issues — such as the speed and scope of lifting sanctions and how and when Iran will reverse its nuclear steps — chances of an agreement seem remote.