Saudi Arabia presses IAEA over inspections of Iran’s nuclear sites

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud urged the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency on Monday to institute a “rapid and comprehensive inspection of all Iranian nuclear sites.”

The Saudi Foreign Ministry tweeted in English and Arabic that Al Saud met with Rafael Grossi, director-general of the IAEA, in Vienna on Monday. In Arabic, the ministry added that the pair discussed the need “to stop Iranian violations and policies of international laws and norms that undermine the security and stability of the region and the world.”

Prince Abdullah bin Khalid bin Sultan, the Saudi ambassador to Austria and to the UN offices in Vienna, also took part in the meeting.

The IAEA hasn’t been able to access its surveillance cameras at Iranian nuclear sites since late February, or data from its online enrichment monitors and electronic seals, hobbling the UN nuclear watchdog’s monitoring abilities. Iran also restarted enrichment at a hardened underground facility and is building more centrifuge halls underground, after two attacks suspected to have been carried out by Israel.

If Iran’s nuclear program remains unchecked, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has warned, it could shrink Tehran’s “breakout” time down to “a matter of weeks.” That has worried nonproliferation experts.

Since US President Joe Biden took office, his diplomats have been working with other world powers to come up with a way to return both the US and Iran to the deal in negotiations in Vienna. There have been no direct US-Iran meetings in those negotiations, though separate talks have been underway involving a possible prisoner swap.

Hardline judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi, who was elected president of Iran last week, said his administration would not allow negotiations to go on unless they were deemed beneficial to Iran.

“Any negotiations that guarantee national interests will certainly be supported, but… we will not allow negotiations to be for negotiation’s sake,” he said in his first press conference on Monday. “The US is obliged to lift all oppressive sanctions against Iran.”

Meanwhile, it remains unclear when a deal will be reached in Vienna. And while Iran has broken through all the accord’s limits, there’s still more it could do to increase pressure on the West. Those steps could include using more centrifuges, further increasing enrichment, restarting a facility that makes plutonium as a byproduct or abandoning a nuclear nonproliferation treaty.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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