U.S. Calls Emergency Meeting Of International Atomic Energy Agency Over Iran
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
The dispute between Iran and the U.S. over the 2015 nuclear deal shifted today to Vienna. The forum was the International Atomic Energy Agency, the nuclear watchdog. In Vienna, the U.S. accused Iran of nuclear extortion. Iran said the U.S. broke the deal by pulling out of it. NPR's Peter Kenyon joins us from Vienna.
PETER KENYON, BYLINE: Hi, Ari.
SHAPIRO: The meeting itself was closed, but both sides talked to reporters afterwards - sounds like not much was resolved.
KENYON: I'd say that's a good assessment. It was very much a situation where opposing views were robustly expressed, accusations were sharply traded - not much in the way of a meeting of the minds. And there's some big differences to be bridged. And apparently, they weren't. That's based on what each side told the reporters afterwards because we weren't allowed in.
SHAPIRO: Walk us through what each side said. Start with the Iranians.
KENYON: Well, the Iranian ambassador to the IAEA, Kazem Gharib Abadi, said nothing had changed from Iran's point of view. It will return to full compliance with the nuclear deal if everybody else does the same and Iran gets all the economic benefits it was promised. But he also said that if that doesn't happen, more violations are coming every two months. Here's a bit of what he said.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
KAZEM GHARIB ABADI: Iran will see some parts of implementation of its obligations under the deal every 60 days unless there's going to be substantial progress made toward the implementation of the obligations of all the remaining parties to the JCPOA, especially the European Union and the E3.
KENYON: Now, E3 - that's shorthand for the three European countries in the deal - Germany, France and Britain. And clearly, this is a main point for Iran that no country is ready to negotiate with a gun at his chest. That's how he put it. And this meeting in no way convinced Iran to reverse course and return to full compliance unless it sees serious movement toward getting some economic benefits from staying in the deal. They lost those, of course, when the sanctions were reimposed by President Trump.
SHAPIRO: The U.S. called for this special meeting. What did the Americans have to say afterwards?
KENYON: Well, afterwards and during - during the meeting, the U.S. released the remarks of the ambassador Julie Wolcott, who said Iran should not be rewarded for what she called brinksmanship and extortion tactics. She said, there's no credible reason for Iran to be expanding its nuclear program. That's referring to the two violations recently announced. In a briefing to reporters later, then an administration official said the U.S. was pleased to see strong support for the IAEA - and a lot of concern about Iran's recent violations. But the official didn't respond to questions about where pressure might be coming next. Could the U.S., for instance, issue new sanctions targeting this financial mechanism the Europeans have been trying to set up? It's already seen as too limited by Iran, but could things get even worse?
SHAPIRO: While this meeting was going on, President Trump tweeted about what he called ongoing secret uranium enrichment by Iran that, he said, had been going on for years. How did people there in Vienna react to that?
KENYON: Yes. That got some raised eyebrows, a complete rejection by the Iranians - no comment from the American side. The Iranian ambassador to the IAEA said, we've got nothing to hide. He repeated Iran's argument that enrichment is its right under the nuclear nonproliferation treaty, rejected any notion that there was some secret enrichment going on that was being concealed from the world. The American administration official who briefed reporters said he wasn't in a position to comment on the president's tweet. That's what we were told. The only other news from the president is that these upcoming sanctions will be substantial.
SHAPIRO: That's NPR's Peter Kenyon in Vienna.
KENYON: Thanks, Ari.
[POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: In this story, we incorrectly refer to Ambassador Jackie Wolcott as Julie Wolcott.] Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.