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New UN nuclear watchdog chief faces Iran crisis

China Daily | Updated: 2019-12-03 10:08
Rafael Grossi speaks after being sworn in as Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) , during the Second Special Session of the General Conference of the IAEA at the agency's headquarters in Vienna on Dec 2, 2019. [Photo/Agencies]

VIENNA - Argentine diplomat Rafael Grossi was confirmed as the new director general of the United Nations nuclear watchdog agency on Monday, with the growing crisis over Iran's nuclear program at the top of his in-tray.

The veteran diplomat, who has been serving as Argentina's ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA, will be the agency's first leader from Latin America.

Grossi previously held high-level posts at the Vienna-based agency between 2010 and 2013, bringing him into contact with Iranian officials at a time when international negotiations over Iran's nuclear activities were intensifying.

Grossi succeeded Japanese diplomat Yukiya Amano, who died in July at the age of 72 while serving in the UN post since 2009.

According to a former French ambassador to Iran, Francois Nicoullaud, Grossi will able to draw on "solid experience in proliferation matters".

"He is someone of a very high caliber who comes from an important country in the nuclear field," said Nicoullaud.

An unnamed Vienna-based diplomat said Grossi was expected to bring "a lot of energy and innovation" to the post, with a particular focus on pushing gender parity within the agency and promoting the role of nuclear energy in fighting climate change.

While the United States is thought to have lobbied in his favor, diplomats said Grossi has stressed his belief in the importance of the agency's impartiality.

Grossi will begin his tenure as the crisis over Iran's nuclear program intensifies.

The UN watchdog is charged with monitoring the implementation of the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, which now seems in danger of imminent collapse.

Diplomats from Iran and other remaining parties to the deal - China, France, Germany, Russia and United Kingdom - will gather in Vienna on Friday to discuss ways of rescuing the crumbling deal.

Since May, Iran has taken a series of measures breaking limits on its nuclear activities laid down in the deal, including increasing the amount and the enrichment level of its uranium stockpile.

Iran insists it has the right to do so in retaliation for the US withdrawal from the deal in 2018 and subsequent reimposition of sanctions, which have placed a huge strain on the Iranian economy.

Iran has said another step away from the deal is likely in early January. Some observers have speculated the country could announce that is increasing its uranium enrichment level yet further.

Agencies - Xinhua

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