Rafael Mariano Grossi, the incoming head of the United Nations' atomic watchdog agency said Monday he will take a "firm and fair" approach toward inspections of Iran's nuclear facilities, and plans to visit Tehran in the near future.
The Argentine diplomat's comments came after he was confirmed as the new director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency unanimously at a special session. His four-year term begins on Tuesday.
The 58-year-old succeeds Yukiya Amano, who died in July, and takes over at a time when the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers is unraveling.
The landmark 2015 deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action promised Iran economic incentives in exchange for curbs on its nuclear programme. The IAEA's role has been to inspect and verify Iran's compliance with the deal.
With the unilateral withdrawal of the United States from the agreement last year and the imposition of new US sanctions, Iran's economy has been struggling. So far, the other nations involved – France, Germany, Britain, China and Russia – have been unable to offset the effects, and Iran has slowly been violating the terms of the JCPOA.
Since May, Iran has taken a series of measures breaking limits on its nuclear activities laid down in the 2015 deal, with another one likely in early January. Iran insists it has the right to do this in retaliation for the US withdrawal from the deal in 2018 and reimposition of crippling sanctions.
Tehran is, however, continuing to provide IAEA inspectors access. Grossi told reporters he expected to travel to Iran himself in the "relatively near future" to meet with leaders there.
"It is really a priority," he said of the situation in Iran, adding that his philosophy on inspection safeguards was to be "firm and fair."
Those "two guiding principles" apply not just to Iran, but to how the IAEA deals with everybody, though "different cases demand different approaches," he said.
"An inspector is not a friend. He's someone who comes and needs to ascertain the facts without bias, without agenda, in an objective and impartial way," Grossi said. "This has to be done in firmness, but in fairness as well."
Grossi became Argentina's ambassador to the Vienna-based IAEA in 2013 and was previously the IAEA's cabinet chief under Amano.
Earlier in his first speech to member states, he said that only the IAEA "can provide this credible assurance that nobody is diverting nuclear material to make nuclear weapons."