Iran backs down in standoff with UN nuclear inspectors

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Iran on Sunday backed down in a standoff with the UN atomic watchdog and agreed to allow continued monitoring of its nuclear sites.

The move followed talks in Tehran between Rafael Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, and Iran’s nuclear research chief Mohammad Eslami, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran.

International inspectors can now install new memory cards in surveillance cameras at Iran’s nuclear sites and continue filming there, averting a potentially embarrassing rebuke for Iran at an IAEA board meeting this week.

Tehran holds all recordings made at its sites as negotiations over the US and Iran returning to the 2015 nuclear deal remain stalled in Vienna. Iran is also enriching uranium close to weapons-grade purity and its stockpile continues to grow.

“I am glad to say that today were able to have a very constructive result, which has to do with the continuity of the operation of the agency’s equipment here,” Grossi said after Sunday’s talks. The agreement was“indispensable for us to provide the necessary guarantee and information to the IAEA and to the world that everything is in order,” he said.

Sunday’s agreement buys time for Iran before the IAEA board meeting, with Western powers arguing for Tehran to be censured over its lack of cooperation with international inspectors. Eslami said Iran would take part in the meeting and its negotiations with the IAEA would continue there.

The IAEA told member states in its confidential quarterly report last week that its verification and monitoring activities had been “seriously undermined” since February by Iran’s refusal to let inspectors access their monitoring equipment.

The agency said monitoring and surveillance equipment could not be left for more than three months without being maintained. It was provided with access this month to four surveillance cameras installed at one site, but one of the cameras had been destroyed and a second had been severely damaged, it said.

In Israel, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett urged world powers not to “fall into the trap of Iranian deception that will lead to additional concessions” over the nuclear inspections deadlock.

“You must not give up on inspecting sites and the most important thing, the most important message, is that there must be a time limit,” Bennett said. Iran was “dragging on, we must set a clear-cut deadline that says: It stops here.

“The Iranian nuclear program is at the most advanced point ever. We must deal with this project.”

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