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UN nuclear watchdog to clear up Trump mess

UN nuclear watchdog to clear up Trump mess
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UN nuclear watchdog to clear up Trump mess

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The head of the United Nations' nuclear watchdog said it reached an agreement with Iran to continue its 'necessary' verification and monitoring...

The head of the United Nations' nuclear watchdog said it reached an agreement with Iran to continue its "necessary" verification and monitoring activities for up to three months, but there will be less access and no more snap inspections from this week.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Rafael Grossi said his talks with Iranian officials had produced a "good, reasonable result" that "salvages the situation for now".

The watchdog has arrived at a temporary bilateral technical understanding whereby the agency is going to continue its necessary verification and monitoring activities for a period of up to three months. This is significant on several counts.

The agreement is that the understanding reached will be under review constantly – so if they want to suspend it or extend it, that could be done. The hope of the IAEA has been to be able to stabilise a situation which was very unstable, and this technical understanding does it, so that other political consultations at other levels could take place.

But in a statement, Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation said the Additional Protocol and IAEA access as part of the 2015 nuclear deal will be completely suspended from Feb 23. No access will be given to the nuclear watchdog beyond safeguards of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, the organisation stressed.

It said, however, that Iran has agreed to keep recording information on its inspection equipment for three months without granting IAEA access. If the sanctions are completely lifted within three months, Iran will give this information to the agency.

If not, the information will be deleted forever. Iran says any access beyond non-proliferation safeguards would be "strictly forbidden and illegal". An article of the legislation passed has foreseen judicial punishments for potential violators.

Will this lead to the lift of crippling sanctions imposed by the former US President, Donald Trump? Though the IAEA chief was careful to say there still would be the same number of inspectors, but there would be "things we lose", he did not offer many specifics, but Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif earlier said that Iran would be blocking the IAEA from accessing footage on its cameras at nuclear sites.

All said and done, it is a specific, bilateral arrangement for monitoring the nuclear programme. The announcement would potentially give a greater amount of time for a diplomatic process to get underway between the US and Iran.

For weeks, the two countries have been at an impasse about efforts to return to the 2015 nuclear deal that saw Iran agree to curb its nuclear programme in exchange for a lifting of international sanctions.

Tehran has gradually scaled back its commitments under the accord after Trump's unilateral withdrawal in 2018. Biden has said he wants to rejoin the deal, but his administration has insisted Iran return to full compliance first.

Iranian officials have demanded the US take the first step to rejoin the accord and lift its sanctions. Biden is having a hard time in restoring his country's supremacy in world affairs.

These are hard times. Combating Covid-19 simultaneously while clearing the mess created by Trump is no easy job.

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