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UPDATE 1-IAEA strikes deal with Iran to cushion coming blow of slashed access

Francois Murphy
·2 min read

(Adds detail, Grossi comment, joint statement)

By Francois Murphy

VIENNA, Feb 21 (Reuters) - The U.N. nuclear watchdog said onSunday it had struck a deal with Iran to cushion the blow ofsteps Tehran plans to take this week that include ending snapinspections, with both sides agreeing to keep "necessary"monitoring for up to three months.

The announcement by International Atomic Energy Agency chiefRafael Grossi, made at Vienna airport after a weekend trip toIran, confirmed that Tehran would go ahead with its plan toslash cooperation with the agency on Tuesday.

Iran has been gradually breaching terms of a 2015 nuclearpact with world powers since the United States, under formerPresident Donald Trump, withdrew in 2018 and reimposedsanctions. The pact aims to keep Iran at arm's length from beingable to make nuclear arms, which Tehran says it has never wantedto build.

U.S. President Joe Biden has said he is ready to talk aboutboth nations returning to the accord, although the two sideshave been at odds about who makes the first step.

A key part of the Iran's plan for reducing cooperation thisweek is ending implementation of the Additional Protocol, underwhich the IAEA has the right to carry out snap inspections inmember states at sites not declared to the agency. Iran hadagreed to implement the protocol under the 2015 nuclear deal.

"This law exists. This law is going to be applied, whichmeans that the Additional Protocol, much to my regret, is goingto be suspended," Grossi told the airport news conference.

Before he spoke, the IAEA and Iran issued a joint statementsaying Tehran would continue implementing the ComprehensiveSafeguards Agreement, its core obligations to the agency thatallow for monitoring of its declared nuclear facilities.

The IAEA will also continue "necessary verification andmonitoring activities for up to three months", the statementsaid, without specifying what those activities are.

Grossi said the steps that Iran would take this week wouldbe "to a certain extent mitigated" by the terms of this new,temporary agreement.

"What we agreed is something that is viable, it's useful tobridge this gap that we are having, salvages the situation now.But of course for a stable, sustainable situation there willhave to be a political negotiation that is not up to me," Grossisaid, suggesting this created a window for talks on salvagingthe nuclear deal.(Reporting by Francois Murphy; Editing by Giles Elgood andEdmund Blair)