Iran makes sweeping promises of cooperation after the head of the UN nuclear agency meets top Iranian officials in Tehran.
Iran has agreed to connect cameras and other surveillance equipment at its nuclear facilities and increase the pace of inspections, according to the head of the UN nuclear agency.
Rafael Grossi made the announcement on Saturday after meeting with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and other top officials in Tehran.
His visit followed the discovery of uranium particles enriched to near weapons level at an underground Iranian facility and came just two days before a quarterly meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) 35-nation board.
“Over the last few months, there has been a reduction in some of the surveillance activities” related to cameras and other equipment “that were not operational,” Grossi told reporters upon his return to Vienna, Austria, where the agency is headquartered.
– We have agreed that they will be in operation again.
He did not give details on what equipment would be restored or how soon it would happen, but appeared to refer to Iran’s removal of surveillance cameras from its nuclear facilities in June 2022, during a previous battle with the IAEA.
“These are not words. This is very concrete, Grossi said of the assurances he received in Tehran.
The IAEA and Iran also issued a joint statement after Grossi’s visit, saying Tehran has “expressed its willingness to … provide additional information and access to resolve the outstanding security issues”.
The statement provided few further details, but the possibility of a marked improvement in relations between the two is likely to stave off a Western push for another resolution ordering Iran to cooperate, Reuters news agency quoted diplomats as saying.
A confidential IAEA report to member states seen by Reuters said Grossi “looks forward to … rapid and full implementation of the joint declaration”.
Iran is meant to provide access to information, places and people, Grossi told reporters, suggesting a vast improvement after years of Iranian stonewalling.
Iran would also allow the reinstallation of additional monitoring equipment that was put in place under the 2015 nuclear deal, but then removed last year when the deal fell apart in the wake of the US withdrawal from the accord in 2018 under then-President Donald Trump.
“This is very, very important” in terms of continuity of knowledge, “especially in the context of the possibility of reviving the JCPOA,” Grossi said, referring to the 2015 agreement on Iran’s nuclear activities, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
Follow-up talks in Iran between the IAEA and Iranian officials aimed at hammering out the details will happen “very, very soon,” Grossi said.
The IAEA chief arrived in Iran on Friday with talks deadlocked on reviving the 2015 pact between Iran and world powers that promised Tehran relief from stinging economic sanctions in exchange for limiting the country’s nuclear activities.
A confidential IAEA report earlier this week said uranium particles enriched up to 83.7 percent – just short of the 90 percent needed to produce a nuclear bomb – had been detected at Iran’s underground Fordow facility about 100 km (62 miles ) south of Tehran.
Grossi told reporters that the IAEA needed to inspect the facility further and that Iran had agreed to “50 percent more inspections” there.
Iran denies that it wants to acquire nuclear weapons and says that it has made no attempt to enrich uranium above 60 percent purity.
However, Iran’s government has said that “unintended fluctuations … may have occurred” during the enrichment process.
The discovery came after Iran had significantly modified an interconnection between two centrifuge clusters that enriched uranium without declaring it to the IAEA.
Al Jazeera’s Dorsa Jabbari, reporting from Tehran, said Grossi’s visit and Iranian promises to allow inspections of Fordow’s nuclear facility as well as access to its senior officials have raised hopes of resolving a years-long standoff.
“It seems to be a step in the right direction that we’re seeing being taken by Iranian officials to increase cooperation with the agency and to move forward and get away from this impasse that they’ve had with the agency for the last almost two years, ” she said.
But skepticism remained.
Miles Pomper, a senior fellow at the Washington, DC, office of the Center for Non-Proliferation Studies, said that if Iran implemented the latest deal, “it would be very helpful to the negotiations”.
“If they actually allowed IAEA inspectors to see these sites, and gave explanations, that would go a long way towards restoring hope for the deal,” he told Al Jazeera.
But “I’m skeptical,” he said.
“So we have to see if the Iranians are just dragging it out to avoid criticism of the IAEA, or if they are serious about a change.”