European countries condemn “excessively invasive” searches by Iranian inspectors
Germany, France and the United Kingdom on Thursday accused Iran of having carried out “excessively invasive physical searches” against international nuclear inspectors.
“First of all, we would like to stress our grave concern at the information contained in the Director General’s report that IAEA inspectors operating in Iran have, for several months, been subjected to intimidation through searches. excessively invasive physical, ”said UK Ambassador to the IAEA Corinne Kitsell. said in a statement on behalf of the countries. “It is unacceptable and unprecedented.
“We express our full support for the IAEA inspectors who perform their duties with impartiality, professionalism and dedication and must be able to perform their duties without fear of intimidation. “
In September, the Wall Street Journal reported that Iranian guards sexually harassed UN nuclear watchdog inspectors at the Natanz nuclear power plant. The incidents included improper touching of female inspectors by male security officers as well as orders from the latter to remove certain clothing, the report said, citing unnamed diplomats. At the time, the International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed the inappropriate behavior in a statement without going into details.
The declaration by the European powers follows a visit to Iran by the head of the UN nuclear watchdog.
Rafael Mariano Grossi warned Wednesday that his inspectors were on the verge of being unable to “guarantee” that they know what is going on at all Iranian nuclear sites.
Grossi’s words contrasted sharply with the optimistic tone offered the day before by his Iranian hosts. They signal the Islamic Republic’s tougher line as renewed talks over Tehran’s tattered nuclear deal with world powers resume next week.
They also represent a stark alarm to nuclear non-proliferation experts after Grossi’s trip to Tehran failed to produce any breakthrough to restore his ability to fully monitor his program.
International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors remain unable to access surveillance footage and face greater challenges in trying to monitor Tehran’s rapidly growing uranium stockpile, some of which is now enriched until ‘at 60% purity – a short technical step compared to military grade levels of 90%. .
“Our negotiations were inconclusive, which means we could not finish,” Grossi told reporters in Vienna, where the IAEA is based, after addressing the board of governors of the agency. “I’m not giving up on trying to find some understanding, but compared to what we were discussing yesterday, we couldn’t come to an agreement.”
Pressed to know if progress had been made, Grossi said that “on substance, no, very clearly, we have not been able to make progress”. However, he said that getting to know the new Iranian officials was “a positive thing” and “it will certainly help.”
But he warned: “We are close to the point where I would not be able to guarantee continuity of knowledge. He did not specify a timetable, but said that a long lack of access to a centrifuge parts production site near the northern town of Karaj, “would prevent me at one point. given to keep saying that I have an idea of what is going on “.
On Tuesday, Grossi visited the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, the country’s civilian nuclear agency, and met its new leader, Mohammad Eslami. He also met with Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, who said Iran was determined to have “constructive engagement” with the IAEA to “improve mutual trust and cooperation,” according to an agency report. IRNA official press release.
Under a confidential agreement called an “additional protocol” with Iran, the IAEA collects and analyzes images from a series of surveillance cameras installed at Iranian nuclear sites. These cameras helped him monitor Tehran’s program to see if he complies with the nuclear deal.
The Iranian parliament outright approved a bill in December 2020 that would suspend part of the inspections of its nuclear facilities by the UN if the European signatories did not grant relief from oil and banking sanctions by February. Since February, the IAEA has not been able to access images from surveillance cameras.
As part of the agreement, the IAEA also placed approximately 2,000 tamper-evident seals on nuclear material and equipment. These seals were communicated electronically to the inspectors. Automated measuring devices also provided real-time data from the program. The inspectors were also unable to access this data, making the task of monitoring Iran’s enriched uranium stocks all the more difficult.
The agency also requested monitoring of activities at the centrifuge parts production site near Karaj. The IAEA has not had access to it since June after Iran said a sabotage attack by Israel severely damaged the IAEA facility and camera there.
Grossi insisted on Wednesday that despite the lack of progress this week, a solution must be found. “We have to come to an agreement,” he said. “We need to.”
Senior British, Chinese, French, German and Russian diplomats plan to meet with Iranian officials in Vienna on November 29 to discuss bringing Tehran back into compliance with the 2015 agreement known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which relaxed sanctions against Iran in exchange for slowing down its nuclear program. The talks could pave the way for the United States to re-join the agreement.
The United States withdrew from former President Donald Trump and reimposed sanctions on Iran, prompting Tehran to abandon any limits the agreement placed on it. This heightened tensions across the Middle East, as Israel warned it would not allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon.
In an interview with NPR, US Special Envoy for Iran Rob Malley warned America would “stand idly by” if Iran “got too close to feel comfortable. With the progress of its nuclear program.
“They are on the verge of having enough fissile material, if they choose to enrich them, military grade for a bomb,” Malley told the broadcaster. “How close they are to a bomb has to do with militarization, and here they are… further.
“But again, we’re not going to wait and see them come so close, and we hope this can be resolved diplomatically and it should be.”