Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said Monday that in order to revive the nuclear deal, Iran must resolve its issues with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) over “safeguard agreements,” referring to the nuclear watchdog’s inquiry into uranium traces at undeclared nuclear sites in Iran.
“Without resolving safeguards issues, talking about an agreement would be meaningless,” the Iranian president said.
IAEA investigators discovered small traces of uranium at undeclared Iranian sites years ago. While the traces were not a proliferation risk, the IAEA has continued its investigation since they were unexplained. Earlier this year, Iran gave the IAEA what it said were documents explaining the uranium traces, but the nuclear watchdog was not satisfied.
Raisi’s comments come as Iran is reviewing the US’s response to an EU proposal to revive the nuclear deal, known as the JCPOA. Last week, a US official said that a deal was “closer” since Iran dropped its condition that the IAEA must end its probe into the uranium traces in order to restore the JCPOA.
But Raisi’s comments suggest that might not be the case, although his remarks could be meant to portray to a domestic audience that he hasn’t caved to Washington. Because the Biden administration has refused to lift all Trump-era sanctions on Iran, Tehran has had to make significant concessions to the US, including dropping its demand to lift the designation of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a foreign terrorist organization.
Iranian media reported Sunday that Tehran is still “seriously reviewing” the US response to the JCPOA, and Iran isn’t expected to reply until at least September 2. The EU’s Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrel has said both the US and Iranian responses to the EU proposal were “reasonable,” and he hopes to reconvene negotiations in Vienna to sign an agreement.