UN nuclear watchdog says it had received no reply from Tehran over the possible extension of a temporary agreement, covering inspections at Iranian nuclear facilities, which expired on Thursday as nuclear talks crisis looms.

An Iranian flag flutters in front of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) headquarters in Vienna, Austria, September 9, 2019.
An Iranian flag flutters in front of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) headquarters in Vienna, Austria, September 9, 2019. (Reuters)

Iran has not responded to the UN nuclear watchdog on extending a monitoring agreement that expired overnight, the agency has said, hours after Washington warned that not prolonging it would harm efforts to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

The agreement continues the International Atomic Energy Agency's collection of data on some of Tehran's activities, cushioning the blow of Iran's decision in February to reduce cooperation with the agency.

"An immediate response from Iran is needed in this regard," the IAEA said in a statement summarising a report by its chief Rafael Grossi to its 35-nation Board of Governors that was also seen by Reuters.

Grossi wrote to Iran last week "to understand Iran's position regarding the possible continued collection, recording and retention of data", the report said. As of Friday, Iran had not replied or indicated whether it intends to maintain the current arrangement, it said.

Before Grossi updated the board, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said any failure by Tehran to extend the monitoring agreement would be a "serious concern" for broader negotiations.

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Iran, US indirect talks

Iran and the United States have been holding indirect talks on reviving the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and major powers that imposed restrictions on Tehran's nuclear activities in exchange for lifting international sanctions.

The Vienna talks, which began in April, are now in a pause that had been expected to last until early July, but failure to extend the monitoring accord could throw those negotiations into disarray.

"Regarding the IAEA, this remains a serious concern," Blinken told a news conference in Paris alongside his French counterpart, Jean-Yves Le Drian. "The concern has been communicated to Iran and needs to be resolved."

The United States abandoned the deal under then-President Donald Trump in 2018 and Iran responded by violating many of its restrictions. President Joe Biden's administration wants to revive the accord, but Tehran and Washington have yet to agree which side should take what steps, and when.

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Significant differences with Iran

One of Iran's moves to reduce compliance was its February decision to end the deal's extra IAEA monitoring of some nuclear activities. The temporary agreement continued that monitoring and a one-month extension ended overnight.

Officials on all sides have said there are major issues still to be resolved before the nuclear deal can be revived.

"We still have significant differences with Iran," Blinken said, adding that he hoped a resumption of talks in the coming days could resolve them.

"We are only going to reach an agreement with Iran if it honours its obligations under the JCPoA and we are just not there yet," he said, referring to the nuclear deal by an abbreviation.

Le Drian echoed that.

"We're waiting for Iranian authorities to take the final difficult decisions to allow for the revival of the 2015 nuclear deal," he said.

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Source: Reuters