Atomic enrichment facilities at Natanz nuclear research centre, some 300 kilometres south of capital Tehran. Iran’s foreign minister this week said the IAEA should drop its “politically motivated probes” of Tehran’s nuclear work. Image Credit: AFP

WASHINGTON: The White House has rejected linking a revival of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal with the closure of investigations by the UN nuclear watchdog a day after Iran reopened the issue according to a Western diplomat.

Iran on Thursday sent its latest response to a European Union (EU) proposed text to revive the agreement under which it had restrained its nuclear programme in exchange for relief from US, EU and UN economic sanctions.

Then-US President Donald Trump abandoned the deal in 2018 and re-imposed US sanctions, prompting Iran to start breaching the deal’s nuclear curbs and reviving US, Arab and Israeli fears it may be seeking an atomic bomb. Iran denies having nuclear ambitions.

“There should not be any conditionality between re-implementation of the JCPOA and investigations related to Iran’s legal obligations under the Non-proliferation Treaty,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said, referring to the deal formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

Jean-Pierre was alluding to investigations by the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) into uranium traces found at three undeclared Iranian sites.

Resolution of the so-called safeguards investigations is critical to the UN agency, which seeks to ensure parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty are not secretly diverting nuclear material which they could use to make a weapon.

A senior US official on August 23 said Iran had “basically dropped” some of the main obstacles to reviving the 2015 deal, including on the IAEA, but the issue seems to have been deferred.

A Western diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity said on Friday Iran had reopened the issue in its latest response, which Tehran described as constructive, a characterisation the United States disputed.

Iran’s foreign minister this week said the IAEA should drop its “politically motivated probes” of Tehran’s nuclear work.

Earlier, European Union’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has received a response from Iran in the talks over a revival of the nuclear deal with the Islamic Republic and distributed it to all other participants in the negotiations, a spokesperson said.

“Right now everybody, is studying this response,” Borrell’s spokesman Peter Stano said on Friday.

“The way ahead will be as always - discussed with all participants and the US,” he added, referring to the other signatories of the 2015 agreement - Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia - and the United States.

Borrell is coordinating the talks aimed at reviving the agreement.