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UN nuclear chief says Iran pledges more access for inspectors

Iran agrees to reconnect surveillance cameras at nuclear sites and speed up inspections, UN nuclear watchdog says.

The head of the UN’s nuclear agency said Iran has pledged to restore cameras and other surveillance equipment at its nuclear sites and to allow more inspections at a facility where uranium particles enriched to near weapons-grade were recently discovered.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Iran issued a joint statement Saturday on the return of IAEA Chief Rafael Grossi from a trip to Iran, just two days before a quarterly meeting of the agency’s 35-nation board of directors.

Grossi met with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and other top officials in Tehran earlier on Saturday.

“In recent months there has been a reduction in some surveillance activities” regarding cameras and other equipment “that were not working,” Grossi told reporters on his return to Vienna. “We have agreed that they will run again.”

He gave no details about what equipment would be recovered or how soon it would happen, but seemed to refer to Iran’s removal of surveillance cameras from its nuclear sites in June 2022, during a previous standoff with the IAEA.

“These are not words. This is very concrete,” Grossi said of the commitments he received in Tehran.

The joint statement went into little detail, but the possibility of a marked improvement in relations between the two is likely to stave off a Western push for a new resolution ordering Iran to cooperate, diplomats told Reuters news agency.

“Iran has expressed its readiness to… provide more information and access to address the outstanding security issues,” the joint statement said.

A confidential IAEA report to member states, seen by Reuters, said Grossi “looks forward to … swift and full implementation of the joint statement”.

Iran is supposed to provide access to information, locations and people, Grossi told a news conference at Vienna airport shortly after landing, suggesting a huge improvement after years of Iranian opposition.

Iran would also allow the reinstallation of additional surveillance equipment placed under the 2015 nuclear deal, but was removed last year when the deal unraveled in the wake of the US’s withdrawal from the 2018 deal under the then-President Donald Trump.

Follow-up talks in Iran between IAEA and Iranian officials to work out the details would take place “very, very soon,” Grossi said.

When asked if all that surveillance equipment would be reinstalled, Grossi replied “Yes”. However, when asked where it would be reinstalled, he only said it would be in a number of locations.

“This is very, very important” in terms of continuity of knowledge, he said, referring to the monitoring systems working again, “particularly in the context of the possibility of JCPOA resurgence.”

Grossi arrived in Iran on Friday, where talks were stalled on reviving a historic 2015 agreement on Iran’s nuclear activity, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA.

“We put a tourniquet on the bleeding of information and the lack of continuity of knowledge we had – now we can get back to work. These are not words, this is very concrete,” he said.

The Vienna-based IAEA is seeking greater cooperation with Iran for its nuclear activities.

Al Jazeera’s Dorsa Jabbari report from Tehran said inspections will increase by 50 percent at the Fordow nuclear site, according to Grossi.

“That’s one of two sites where enrichment happens,” Jabbari said.

“The director general also said that the agency will have access to very important people who are part of Iran’s nuclear program; that’s the first time we’ve heard him say this in public.

“It appears to be a step in the right direction being taken by Iranian officials to increase their cooperation with the agency and to move forward and get out of the deadlock they have had with the agency for the past nearly two years. ”