Iran and UN watchdog reach deal over nuclear site monitoring

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  • Iran nuclear deal

image source, Getty Imagesimage captionRafael Grossi (centre), head of the UN's nuclear watchdog, met Iran's nuclear energy chief Mohammad Eslami (left) this week

Iran has agreed to allow the UN nuclear watchdog to service cameras used to monitor Iranian nuclear sites.

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors will also be allowed to replace the cameras' memory cards, and they will be kept in Iran.

Iran had previously said it would only hand over camera footage from key nuclear sites after an agreement is reached to lift US sanctions.

The IAEA had complained that Iran was blocking its monitoring work.

Western countries have accused Iran of trying to build nuclear weapons. Tehran has denied this, saying its nuclear programme is peaceful.

IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi flew to Tehran this week as negotiations on the monitoring equipment stalled. During the visit, he met Mohammad Eslami, the new head of Iran's nuclear agency.

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At a joint news conference, Mr Grossi said the "indispensable work" that Iran and the IAEA had to carry out "requires that we get to know each other".

Under another deal struck in 2015 between Tehran and six countries – the US, UK, France, China, Russia and Germany – Tehran agreed to stop some nuclear work in return for an end to international sanctions.

But tensions between Iran and the West have soared since 2018, when then-President Donald Trump pulled out of the nuclear deal and restored US sanctions.

media captionIran's nuclear programme: What's been happening at its key nuclear sites?

In 2019, Iran responded by breaching many of the deal's major restrictions, like enriching uranium closer to a higher purity needed to make nuclear weapons.

Washington and its European allies have urged Iran's President President Ebrahim Raisi to return to the talks.

Mr Raisi – who took office last month – has said he would support "any diplomatic plans" to end "illegal" US sanctions on Iran.

The European Union has welcomed the latest agreement, saying it created space for diplomacy. It was reached after two confidential report by the agency were leaked.

The reports said Iran had previously failed to co-operate on the issue of monitoring equipment, which had been agreed under the 2015 nuclear deal.

They also said there had been no clear explanation given as to why traces of uranium were found at several old, undeclared nuclear sites.

In August, US President Joe Biden said that if diplomacy did not resolve the Iranian nuclear crisis, America was "ready to turn to other options".

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