TEHRAN (Agencies): Rafael Grossi, the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), arrived in Tehran on Monday to participate in a nuclear conference and negotiate with top nuclear and political officials of Iran. This visit comes at a time of heightened regional tensions, with the IAEA criticizing Iran for its lack of cooperation on inspections and other outstanding issues.

Grossi is expected to deliver a speech at Iran’s first International Conference on Nuclear Science and Technology, a three-day event held in Isfahan province. This province is home to the Natanz uranium enrichment plant, which was hit by strikes attributed to Israel last month.

During his visit, Grossi is expected to meet with Iranian officials, including the Islamic republic’s nuclear chief, Mohammad Eslami. Eslami expressed optimism about the negotiations, stating that they will “help clear ambiguities” and strengthen relations with the agency.

Iran has been criticized by the IAEA for deactivating monitoring devices at nuclear facilities and barring inspectors. Grossi’s last visit to Iran was in March 2023, where he met with top officials, including President Ebrahim Raisi.

Iran suspended its compliance with caps on nuclear activities set by a landmark 2015 deal with major powers after the United States unilaterally withdrew from the agreement and reimposed sweeping sanctions in 2018. Tensions between Iran and the IAEA have repeatedly flared since the deal fell apart.

Last year, Iran slowed down the pace of its uranium enrichment, which was seen as a goodwill gesture while informal talks began with the United States. However, the IAEA reported that Iran accelerated the production of 60-percent enriched uranium in late 2023. Enrichment levels of around 90 percent are required for military use.

Tehran has consistently denied any ambition to develop nuclear weapons, insisting that its atomic activities were entirely peaceful. In February, the IAEA reported that Iran’s estimated stockpile of enriched uranium had reached 27 times the limit set out in the 2015 accord.

Iran withdrew the accreditation of several inspectors in September, a move described by the UN agency as “extreme and unjustified”. However, Tehran attributed this decision to “political abuses” by the United States, France, Germany, and Britain. Despite this, Eslami stated that the IAEA has “more than 130 inspectors” working in Iran and insisted that Tehran remains committed to cooperating with the nuclear watchdog.

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