IAEA Chief Arrives in Tehran as Iran Nuclear Deal “Closes”

The head of the United Nations nuclear watchdog arrived in Tehran Friday amid hopes of reviving a 2015 deal between Iran and world powers, with Britain saying it was “close” to a deal.

The visit of the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Rafael Grossi, who is scheduled to meet with Iranian officials on Saturday, is seen as crucial to reaching an agreement on the return of the nuclear deal and concurrently with negotiations in the Austrian capital to save the deal.

Upon his arrival in Tehran, Grossi was “received by Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran,” the Iranian agency said in a statement on its website. Grossi will meet with the chairman of the organization on Saturday (5/3).

“This is a critical moment but a positive outcome for all is possible,” Grossi wrote on Twitter on Friday morning.

The next few days are widely seen as a tipping point for negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program – the latest round of which began in late November in Vienna.

“The time is near. The E3 negotiators briefly leave Vienna to inform ministers of the state of the negotiations,” head of the British delegation Stephanie Al-Qaq said Friday, referring to negotiators from Britain, France and Germany.

Stephanie added that they were “ready to return soon.”

Together with counterparts from China, Iran and Russia, they have taken part in the latest round of talks in the capital

Austria since late November, when the US participated indirectly.

Grossi vowed earlier this week that the IAEA “will never abandon” its efforts to get Iran to clarify the presence of nuclear material at several unannounced locations in the past.

Iran says closing the investigation is necessary to reach agreement on the nuclear deal.

Grossi is expected to hold a press conference upon his return to Vienna. [mg/pp]