By Parisa Hafezi, John Irish and Trevor Hunnicutt
NEW YORK/WASHINGTON, Sept. 20 (Reuters) – Iran and the West were at loggerheads Tuesday over UN investigations into traces of uranium at three Iranian sites as the United States said it did not expect a breakthrough in reviving the Iran nuclear deal from 2015 week of the UN General Assembly.
Tehran has urged Washington to close International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) investigations into traces of uranium found at three undeclared sites before fully implementing a proposed deal to revive the nuclear pact.
However, the United States and its partners reject that position, arguing that the investigation cannot be concluded until Iran has provided satisfactory answers to the UN agency based in Vienna.
Resolving the investigations is critical for the IAEA, which wants to ensure that parties to the Non-Proliferation Treaty are not secretly diverting nuclear material that they could use to make a weapon.
French President Emmanuel Macron and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi each set out known positions on the uranium trace issue after their talks at the annual meeting of world leaders in New York.
“The ball is now in Iran’s court, that is, whether it accepts the terms formally set by the Americans and Europeans,” Macron told reporters after meeting with Raisi, saying the West would not pressure the IAEA to to close the investigations.
In Washington, White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said he did not expect a breakthrough at this week’s UN meetings, but reiterated the US’s willingness to revive the deal, which will see Iran revitalize its nuclear program. limited in return for relief from economic sanctions.
Raisi said, however, that Tehran continues to demand that the IAEA close its investigations and that the United States, which halted the nuclear deal under then-President Donald Trump in 2018, offers guarantees to limit the effects of its repeal again.
“Iran’s demand to get guarantees is a perfectly reasonable and logical demand,” Raisi told Macron, according to the Iranian leader’s office. “We believe it is not possible to reach an agreement without the IAEA closing the investigations.”
The Macron-Raisi rally marks the Iranian president’s first confrontation with a major Western leader since he was elected last year.
It comes amid a complete stalemate to revive the 2015 nuclear talks and as protests mount in Iran over the death of Mahsa Amini, 22, who fell into a coma and died after her arrest in Tehran last week by the vice squad for “inappropriate clothing”. (Reporting by John Irish and Parisa Hafezi in New York and by Trevor Hunnicutt in Washington; Additional reporting by Doina Chiacu and Arshad Mohammed; Writing by Arshad Mohammed; editing by Grant McCool)