UN atomic-agency boss Rafael Grossi says he will travel to Iran on August 24 to seek "concrete progress" in a dispute between the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Tehran over nuclear "safeguards" and blocked inspections in Iran.
It will be Director-General Grossi's first trip to Iran since taking over leadership of the agency eight months ago and comes amid a mounting standoff between the IAEA and Tehran over access to two sites where nuclear activities might have occurred and with the United States pressing for reimposing UN nuclear-related sanctions against Tehran.
"My objective is that my meetings in Tehran will lead to concrete progress in addressing the outstanding questions that the Agency has related to safeguards in Iran and, in particular, to resolve the issue of access," Grossi said of the trip.
He will meet with "high-level Iranian authorities," he said.
The IAEA's board of governors passed a rare resolution in June calling on Iran to provide access to two sites there where nuclear activities may have taken place in the past.
The resolution, the first of its kind since 2012, demanded that Iran "fully cooperate" and "satisfy the Agency's requests without any further delay," including by providing "prompt" access to the two sites in order to clarify whether undeclared nuclear activity took place there during the early 2000s.
The agency recently cited "extensive sanitization and leveling" at a third site in 2003-04.
"We hope this visit will lead to reinforced mutual cooperation," Iran's envoy to international institutions in Vienna, Kazem Gharib Abadi, reportedly tweeted of Grossi's trip.
'We Need This Cooperation'
Grossi has accused Iran of denying access to the two locations for six months, and said that for almost a year "it has not engaged in substantive discussions to clarify our questions related to possible undeclared nuclear material and nuclear-related activities."
"We need this cooperation," Grossi said at the time. "I regret that at this point we have this disagreement."
Iran maintains that the IAEA has no legal basis to inspect the sites in question.
The IAEA-Iran standoff comes with the United States pressing for reimposing UN sanctions lifted as part of a 5-year-old nuclear deal that Washington exited two years ago.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on August 20 formally launched the monthlong process of activating the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action (JCPOA)'s "snapback" mechanism aimed at reimposing UN sanctions on Iran, citing Iranian violations of the deal.
Pompeo said before a meeting earlier this month with Grossi that the United States will do everything in its power to extend the embargo, which is set to be progressively eased beginning on October 18.
The United States and its European allies have sparred over the U.S. approach.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on August 14 proposed an online summit for the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, Germany, and Iran, to discuss the Iran arms embargo. He said the alternative was "further growth of tensions and greater risks of a conflict."
A joint commission on the Iran nuclear agreement will meet in Vienna on September 1, according to the European Union.
The meeting will be chaired by the European Union and attended by representatives of Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia, and Iran, the EU said in a statement.
France, Germany and Britain said they cannot support the U.S. move, saying the action is incompatible with efforts to support the Iran nuclear deal.