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UN Nuclear Watchdog Chief To Visit Tehran 'Probably Soon,' Iran Says

Rafael Grossi, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (file photo)

The head of the UN nuclear watchdog has been invited to visit Iran "probably soon," the country's Foreign Ministry said, amid concern over a lack of contact with Iranian authorities ahead of the expected resumption of negotiations with world powers on reviving a 2015 nuclear deal.

Rafael Grossi, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), "has been invited to travel to Tehran. A date has been set in this regard and we are waiting for his response to the specified date. He will visit Iran probably soon," spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said.

Grossi is expected to meet with Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and the country's atomic energy chief, Khatibzadeh told journalists, adding, "we await his response."

The announcement came after Grossi last week described a lack of contact with the Iranian government as "astonishing."

"There's a long list of things we need to discuss," he said.

Grossi, who last visited Tehran in September, had voiced hope he could visit Iran before the next meeting of the IAEA's board of governors starts on November 22.

The invitation comes as talks are expected to resume on November 29 in Vienna aiming to revive a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.

The deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was intended to curtail Iran's nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.

The United States withdrew from the deal in 2018 under then-President Donald Trump, and Iran has since consistently increased activity in its nuclear program, including expanding its stockpile of enriched uranium, arguing that it was no longer subject to the terms of the vacated deal.

Trump's successor, President Joe Biden, has expressed interest in rejoining the pact if Iran returned to full compliance.

However, indirect negotiations between the deal's signatories that started in April in Vienna were put on hold in June after the Islamic republic elected hard-liner Ebrahim Raisi as president.

On November 15, Khatibzadeh reiterated Tehran's demands for guarantees that Washington would not pull out of the deal again, adding that progress in negotiations was contingent on the lifting of sanctions.

With reporting by Reuters and AFP