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Iran To Allow Access To Suspected Nuclear Sites

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Iranian nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi (left) and IAEA head Rafael Grossi speak at a joint press conference in Tehran on August 25.

Iran has agreed to allow inspections of two sites where nuclear activities are suspected to have taken place in the past, easing diplomatic pressure on Tehran as the United States seeks to reimpose UN sanctions.

The announcement was made on August 26 in a joint statement by Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as Director-General Rafael Grossi was wrapping up his visit to Tehran.

The Vienna-based global watchdog has criticised Iranian officials for denying it access to the two locations, and for not answering its questions about possible undeclared nuclear material and nuclear-related activities there.

In the statement issued by the IAEA, Grossi and Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, said that Iran was "voluntarily providing the IAEA with access to the two locations specified by the IAEA and facilitating the IAEA verification activities to resolve the issues."

The statement said that the dates for the inspections had been agreed, but it did not say when they would take place.

As he returned from Tehran later in the day, Grossi told reporters that IAEA inspectors will have access to the two sites "very, very soon."

Meeting Grossi in the Iranian capital, President Hassan Rohani called the agreement "good" and said it can help "finally settle issues," according to the government's official website.

Russia's ambassador to international organizations in Vienna, Mikhail Ulyanov, described the Iran-IAEA agreement as a "breakthrough" and "another proof that dialogue is more productive than pressure."

Grossi's trip, his first to Iran since taking over the IAEA leadership eight months ago, came amid a mounting standoff between the IAEA and Tehran over access to the two sites in order to clarify whether undeclared nuclear activity took place there during the early 2000s.

In June, the IAEA's board of governors passed a rare resolution demanding that Iran "fully cooperate" and "satisfy the agency's requests without any further delay," including by providing "prompt" access to the sites.

At the time, Grossi 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."

Iran maintained the IAEA had no legal basis to inspect the sites in question.

The August 26 announcement also comes after the United States last week pressed the UN Security Council to reimpose sanctions on Tehran that were lifted under Iran's 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. Washington exited the agreement more than two years ago and reimposed unilateral sanctions on Iran.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last week formally launched the monthlong process of activating the nuclear accord's "snapback" mechanism aimed at reimposing UN sanctions on Iran, citing Iranian violations of the deal.

But the U.S. move faces opposition at the Security Council, where other members have questioned the United States' right to do it since Washington withdrew from the nuclear pact.

The United States claims it remains a "participant" in the accord because it was listed as such in the UN resolution that enshrined it.

With reporting by Reuters and AFP
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