EXCLUSIVE Iran restricts IAEA access to the main enrichment facility after the attack – diplomats

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PARIS / VIENNA, July 1 (Reuters) – Iran restricted UN nuclear inspectors’ access to its main uranium enrichment facility in Natanz, citing security concerns, after Israel allegedly attacked the site in April, diplomats say.

The stalemate, which one official said has been going on for weeks, is currently being resolved, diplomats said, but it has also sparked tension with the West, as well as postponing indirect talks between Iran and the United States on reviving the Iranian nuclear deal with no date set for their resumption. Continue reading

It follows various steps by Iran violating the 2015 nuclear deal or angering Washington and its allies, from enriching uranium to near weapon quality to failing to explain the origins of uranium particles, which the UN nuclear watchdog on several has found undeclared locations.

“They’re provoking us,” said a Western diplomat, who is closely following the International Atomic Energy Agency, adding that inspectors should have full access next week.

Iranian officials were not immediately available for comment. The IAEA declined to comment, referring to its general policy of not commenting on inspection matters.

All reasons for Iran’s move beyond the official security concerns it cited as statements are unclear, but it previously argued with the IAEA about access. Iran denied the IAEA access to two rapid inspection locations in 2020. In 2019, Iran detained an IAEA inspector and confiscated their travel documents.

The IAEA has so far stopped reporting the problem to its member states and convened an emergency meeting of its 35-member board of governors, as it did in November 2019 when Iran briefly stopped the IAEA inspector who diplomats said was seeking access to Natanz would have.

An April explosion and blackout in Natanz, the centerpiece of Iran’s uranium enrichment program, appear to have damaged the centrifuges of the underground commercial fuel enrichment facility (FEP) there. The last quarterly IAEA report on Iran in May showed that its enrichment production had slowed. Continue reading

“Due to the accident / sabotage in April, certain entrances were restricted for security reasons,” said a Vienna-based diplomat, adding that the move “had very little impact on the agency’s ability to inspect”.

The IAEA and Iran have discussed the issue “to avoid these restrictions becoming permanent and undermining verification capability,” he added.

A US official declined to comment on the dispute, but stressed the importance of Iran adhering to its security agreement, which allows the IAEA to verify compliance with the Non-Proliferation Treaty. The NPT allows Iran a civilian nuclear program in exchange for a commitment not to acquire nuclear weapons.

“We take nothing more seriously than the full implementation of Iran’s obligations under the NPT and its comprehensive protection agreement,” said the US official, who asked for anonymity.

CALIBRATED MOVEMENT

Washington and its European partners have put pressure on Iran for violating the 2015 agreement, which aimed to extend the time it would take Tehran to manufacture a nuclear weapon if it so chose. Iran insists that its nuclear targets are completely peaceful.

Inspections and surveillance were also recently in the spotlight when Iran scaled back its cooperation with the Agency in February and removed the legal basis for rush IAEA inspections of undeclared facilities introduced by the 2015 agreement. Continue reading

At the same time, Iran ended the IAEA’s surveillance of some nuclear activities introduced by the agreement. Through a fixed-term agreement with the IAEA, the monitoring was retained in the form of a black box agreement, under which the data is still collected, but the IAEA can only access it at a later point in time. Continue reading

However, that temporary agreement expired last week, and the IAEA said Iran has not responded to the status of this agreement, which the IAEA is hoping to renew. Continue reading

The Western diplomat said Iran has now agreed to give inspectors full access to the FEP, which is due to happen next week. Another said the move had been carefully calibrated by Iran to cause trouble without causing a major diplomatic incident.

“The Iranians are very tactical,” he said.

Reporting by John Irish in Paris and Francois Murphy in Vienna; Additional reporting from Parisa Hafezi in Dubai and Arshad Mohammed in Washington, letter from Francois Murphy, editing by William Maclean and Grant McCool

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.



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