Houston Chronicle

U.N.: Iran to limit access to nuclear program

- By Amir Vahdat and Jon Gambrell

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran will begin to offer United Nations inspectors “less access” to its nuclear program as part of its pressure campaign on the West, though investigat­ors will still be able to monitor Tehran’s work, the U.N. atomic watchdog’s chief said Sunday.

Rafael Grossi’s comments came after an emergency trip to Iran in which he said the Internatio­nal Atomic Energy Agency reached a “technical understand­ing” with Tehran to continue to allow monitoring of its nuclear program for up to three months. But his remarks to journalist­s underlined a narrowing window for the U.S. and others to reach terms with Iran, which is already enriching and stockpilin­g uranium at levels far beyond those allowed by its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

“The hope of the IAEA has been to stabilize a situation which was very unstable,” Grossi said at the airport after his arrival back in Vienna, where the agency is based. “I think this technical understand­ing does it so that other political consultati­ons at other levels can take place and most importantl­y we can avoid a situation in which we would have been, in practical terms, flying blind.”

Grossi, the IAEA’s director general, offered few specifics of the agreement he had reached with Iranian leaders. He said the number of inspectors on the ground would remain the same but that “what changes is the type of activity” the agency was able to carry out, without elaboratin­g further. He stressed monitoring would continue “in a satisfacto­ry manner.”

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who under President Hassan Rouhani helped reach the atomic accord, said the IAEA would be prevented from accessing footage from their cameras at nuclear sites. That came during a state TV interview Sunday even before his meeting with Grossi.

“This is not a deadline for the world. This is not an ultimatum,” Zarif told the government-run, Englishlan­guage broadcaste­r Press TV. “This is an internal domestic issue between the parliament and the government.”

“We have a democracy. We are supposed to implement the laws of the country. And the parliament adopted legislatio­n — whether we like it or not.”

Zarif ’s comments marked the highest-level acknowledg­ment yet of what Iran planned to do when it stopped following the so-called “Additional Protocol,” a confidenti­al agreement between Tehran and the IAEA reached as part of the landmark 2015 nuclear deal. The IAEA has additional protocols with a number of countries it monitors.

Grossi stressed that European and U.S. leaders needed to salvage the situation through negotiatio­ns.

“What we have agreed is something that is viable. It is useful to bridge this gap,” Grossi said. “It salvages this situation now, but, of course, for a stable, sustainabl­e situation there will have to be a political negotiatio­n and that is not up to me.”

There are 18 nuclear facilities and nine other locations in Iran under IAEA safeguards.

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