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IAEA chief arrives in Tehran for high-level talks ahead of Vienna negotiations

This handout picture provided by the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) on November 22, 2021 shows AEOI spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi (L) meeting with Rafael Grossi, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), upon his arrival in the capital Tehran.

The director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has arrived in Tehran for meetings with top Iranian officials, days before the resumption of high-profile talks in Vienna on the removal of the United States’ sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

Rafael Grossi arrived at Imam Khomeini International Airport on Monday evening and was welcomed by the spokesman of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), Behrouz Kamalvandi.

The UN nuclear watchdog’s chief is scheduled to meet with the head of the AEOI, Mohammad Eslami, on Tuesday morning.

He will also hold talks with Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian Tuesday afternoon when they will meet for the first time.

Talks on creating a framework for cooperation between the IAEA and the AEOI are high on the agenda of Grossi’s visit to Tehran.

Grossi hopes to form ‘channel of direct dialogue’ with Tehran

Before heading for Tehran, Grossi hoped in a tweet that his visit would help “establish a fruitful and cooperative channel of direct dialogue” between Iran and the UN nuclear watchdog.

“I’m travelling to Tehran today for meetings with Iranian officials to address outstanding questions in #Iran. I hope to establish a fruitful and cooperative channel of direct dialogue so the @IAEAorg can resume essential verification activities in the country.”

Grossi’s trip also comes ahead of the meeting of the 35-nation IAEA Board of Governors. 

Earlier this month, the IAEA chief complained that he had “no contact” with the new Iranian administration of President Ebrahim Raeisi.

Tehran dismissed the claim, saying that on the contrary, he had had close consultations with both the AEOI and the Iranian embassy in Vienna.

Later on Monday, Russia’s ambassador to international organizations in Vienna, Mikhail Ulyanov, took to Twitter to say that the next round of negotiations in Vienna on the removal of Iran sanctions “are obliged to succeed taking into account that the stakes are very high.”

The Islamic Republic has invariably welcomed cooperation with IAEA officials, but at the same time, it has warned the body against falling under the influence of third parties as it calibrates its relations with Tehran.

Also on Monday, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman called on the IAEA not to allow certain countries to abuse its name for the sake of achieving their own political objectives.

“We have always advised the agency to remain on the path of technical cooperation, and not to allow some countries to advance their political agendas and political objectives using the name of the agency,” Saeed Khatibzadeh said.

“I hope this trip would be constructive like the previous ones,” he noted.

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