Iran agrees inspection deal with UN nuclear watchdog at two nuclear sites

Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei - SUPREME LEADER OFFICE/HANDOUT/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei - SUPREME LEADER OFFICE/HANDOUT/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Iran has offered to allow UN nuclear inspectors to visit two controversial nuclear sites as part of its diplomatic charm offensive to have the international arms embargo against Tehran lifted, The Daily Telegraph can reveal.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN-sponsored body responsible for monitoring Iran’s nuclear activities, has been highly critical of the Iranian regime over its refusal to cooperate with inspectors over claims that it has undertaken illicit activities at two nuclear facilities.

The IAEA took the unprecedented step earlier this year of issuing a special report publicly rebuking Iran for its non-cooperation on a number of key nuclear issues, and denying inspectors access to two key Iranian nuclear installations at Marivan and Amad, which inspectors believe have been used for developing and storing nuclear material and form part of Iran’s clandestine nuclear weapons programme.

Iran has consistently refused to allow the IAEA access to the sites despite signing the 2015 nuclear deal with the US and other major world powers.

But in a belated attempt to improve relations with the IAEA and the UN, Iran has now reached an agreement to allow the inspectors to visit the sites, according to Western diplomatic sources.

The stalemate is said to have been broken earlier this month following a visit to Iran by Rafael Gross, the IAEA’s director general, where he had talks with Dr Ali-Akbar Salehi, the head of the Atomic Energy Agency of Iran.

Western diplomats believe that, in return for gaining access to the two sites, the IAEA has given Tehran undertakings that it will no longer insist on investigating historic issues relating to Iran’s nuclear programme.

“Iran is desperate to get the arms embargo lifted at the UN, and so has decided to cooperate with the IAEA to improve relations with the UN,” said a senior Western diplomat.

“Tehran believes that if it cooperates with the UN, there is a greater possibility that the arms embargo will not be renewed.”

The Iranian move is likely to be greeted with deep scepticism in Washington, where the Trump administration has launched a major lobbying effort aimed at maintaining the UN Security Council’s arms embargo against Iran, which is due to expire in October.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has been lobbying the three European signatories to the nuclear deal - Britain, France and Germany - to back Washington’s efforts to extend the UN arms embargo, but has met stiff resistance from European leaders who argue the embargo is no longer valid after the Trump administration’s unilateral decision to withdraw from the nuclear deal in 2018.

This prompted Mr Pompeo yesterday to accuse Washington’s European allies of “siding with the ayatollahs” by insisting that the US could not reimpose sanctions on Iran.