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IAEA Chief Says Iran Nuclear Inspections Should Not Be 'Bargaining Chip'

Rafael Grossi, the director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, made his remarks at a press conference in Vienna on March 1.

The head of the UN's nuclear watchdog says the agency’s inspection work in Iran cannot become a "bargaining chip" in talks to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal with world powers.

"The inspection work of the IAEA must be preserved…[and] should not be put in the middle of a negotiating table as a bargaining chip," International Atomic Energy Agency Director-General Rafael Grossi told a press conference on March 1 at the start of the agency’s quarterly board of governors meeting in Vienna.

Last week, Tehran began restricting some international inspections in a move aimed at putting further pressure on the United States and other parties to the nuclear agreement to get Washington to lift U.S. sanctions on Iran.

However, under a temporary deal worked out during a trip to Tehran by Grossi, some access was preserved.

Grossi on March 1 described the suspension of the inspections as a "huge loss."

When asked if the IAEA could still reassure the international community that the Iranian nuclear program was exclusively peaceful, he replied: "So far, so good."

Tensions have soared since the administration of former U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the nuclear accord with Iran in 2018 and reimposed crippling economic sanctions to force Iran to renegotiate the pact.

Iran retaliated by rolling back a number of key commitments to the deal.

The new administration of President Joe Biden has expressed intent to rejoin the agreement, but it insists Tehran must return to full compliance.

Iran, which has always denied pursuing nuclear weapons, first wants sanctions to be lifted.

With reporting by AFP and AP