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Tehran: The head of the United Nations’ atomic watchdog met Tuesday with Iranian officials to press for greater access in the Islamic Republic ahead of diplomatic talks restarting over Tehran’s tattered nuclear deal with world powers.

Rafael Mariano Grossi of the International Atomic Energy Agency yet again faces tightrope-style talks with Iranian officials as his inspectors remain unable to access surveillance footage and face greater challenges in trying to monitor Tehran’s rapidly growing uranium stockpile. 

In the wake of then-President Donald Trump’s unilateral withdrawal from Iran’s deal, the Islamic Republic now enriches small amounts of uranium up to 60% purity — its highest ever and close to weapons-grade levels of 90%.

While Iran maintains its program is peaceful, regional rival Israel has repeatedly warned it won’t allow Tehran to build a nuclear weapon and is suspected of launching attacks targeting its program as part of a wider regional shadow war playing across the Mideast in recent years. The U.S. under President Joe Biden, meanwhile, has said it’s willing to return to the deal, but has warned time is running out.

All this raises the risk of a wider confrontation with Iran, which has taken a harder tack ahead of the talks under new President Ebrahim Raisi, a protégé of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Writing on Twitter on Monday, Grossi said he hoped to “address outstanding questions” with Iranian officials.

“I hope to establish a fruitful and cooperative channel of direct dialogue so the (IAEA) can resume essential verification activities in the country,” Grossi wrote. On Tuesday, Grossi went to the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, the country’s civilian nuclear agency, for his third-such visit since February.  




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