UN nuclear watchdog to travel to Iran for talks

UN nuclear watchdog to travel to Iran for talks
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The head of the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is traveling to Iran this weekend for talks amid concerns from the watchdog that the country has not been cooperating with a probe into past nuclear activities.

IAEA spokesperson Fredrik Dahl confirmed to The Hill that watchdog chief Rafael Grossi is scheduled to meet Sunday with Mohammad Eslami, the vice president of Iran and head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI).

Dahl added that following the meeting, Grossi will hold a press conference from the Vienna airport Sunday evening.

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The planned talks, which were first reported by Reuters Saturday, comes days after the news agency said that the IAEA noted in two recent reports that it had not made progress on explaining traces of uranium at several undeclared sites, and that it experienced difficulties in gaining access to monitoring equipment to track Iran’s nuclear activity.

Reuters noted that one of the reports read, “The Agency's confidence that it can maintain continuity of knowledge is declining over time and has now significantly further declined.”

Iran has continued to develop its uranium enrichment since the breakdown of the 2015 nuclear agreement, which former President TrumpDonald TrumpGraham says he hopes that Trump runs again Trump says Stacey Abrams 'might be better than existing governor' Kemp Executive privilege fight poses hurdles for Trump MORE withdrew the U.S. from in 2018.

The IAEA said in a report last month that Iran had accelerated its uranium enrichment to 60 percent purity, closer to the 90 percent required to develop nuclear weapons, though Iran has continued to claim that its nuclear program has solely peaceful goals as it seeks to develop reactor fuel.

Indirect talks between the U.S. and Iran on a possible renegotiation of a deal have stalled as hardline Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi took office last month.

Raisi said last weekend that Iran was open to resuming nuclear talks, but wanted to do so without “pressure” from the U.S. and other Western countries.

"Talks are on the agenda ... We are seeking goal-oriented negotiations ... so unjust sanctions on the Iranian people are lifted ... and their lives can flourish," the new president said at the time, according to Reuters. 

The U.S. has continued to pressure Iran to pull back on its nuclear development, while Iran has called for the lifting of sanctions before any changes or renegotiations to the Obama-era nuclear deal can occur.