Iran disconnects IAEA cameras at nuclear sites

Published June 9, 2022
This file photo, taken on October 26, 2010, shows the inside of reactor at the Russian-built Bushehr nuclear power plant in southern Iran. — AFP/File
This file photo, taken on October 26, 2010, shows the inside of reactor at the Russian-built Bushehr nuclear power plant in southern Iran. — AFP/File

TEHRAN: Iran disconnected some of the United Nations nuclear watchdog’s monitoring cameras on Wednesday, the country’s Atomic Energy Organisation said in a statement after Western nations accused Tehran of non-cooperation.

The move was announced after a resolution submitted by Britain, France, Germany and the United States to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to censure Iran, the first since June 2020 when a similar motion was adopted.

Iran said the disconnected cameras had been operating beyond the safeguard agreement between Tehran and the IAEA.

“As of today, the relevant authorities have been instructed to cut off the On-Line Enrichment Monitor (OLEM) and the flow metre cameras of the agency,” Iran’s nuclear organisation said in statement. These cameras were operating as a “goodwill gesture” which was not “appreciated” by the IAEA, but considered an “obligation”, it added.

While the statement did not specify how many cameras were turned off, it said “more than 80 percent of the agency’s existing cameras are operating according to the safeguard agreement, and will continue to operate just as before”.

Behrouz Kamalvandi, the spokesman for Iran’s nuclear organisation, “monitored the shutdown of two IAEA cameras at a nuclear facility”, the statement added.

Iran’s actions followed a joint statement to the IAEA by Britain, France and Germany, in which they said they “strongly urge Iran to stop escalating its nuclear programme and to urgently conclude (the) deal that is on the table”.

The motion is seen as a sign of growing Western impatience with Iran after talks on reviving the 2015 deal stalled in March.

‘No hidden activities’

Earlier, the chief of Iran’s nuclear organisation, Mohammad Eslami, said “Iran has no hidden or undocumented nuclear activities or undisclosed sites”, according to state news agency IRNA.

“These fake documents seek to maintain maximum pressure” on Tehran, he added, referring to the crippling economic sanctions reimposed by Washington

when then president Donald Trump abandoned a nuclear deal between Iran and major powers in 2018.

“This recent move by three European countries and the US by presenting a draft resolution against Iran is a political one,” Eslami said, adding that “Iran has had maximum cooperation with the IAEA”.

The trigger for the latest Western condemnation was a report issued by the IAEA late last month, in which it said it still has questions about traces of enriched uranium previously found at three sites, which Tehran had not declared as having hosted nuclear activities.

The watchdog said those questions were “not clarified” in its meetings with Iranian authorities.

European governments have expressed mounting concern over how far Iran has gone since the US reimposed sanctions in resuming nuclear activities it had halted under the 2015 deal.

“Its nuclear programme is now more advanced than at any point in the past,” the governments said in their joint statement, adding Iran’s accumulation of enriched uranium has no “credible civilian justification”.

Talks to revive the nuclear accord started in April last year with the aim of bringing the United States back in, lifting sanctions and getting Iran to return to the limits it agreed to on its nuclear activities.

But negotiations have stalled in recent months and the European Union’s top diplomat Josep Borrell warned last weekend that the possibility of returning to the accord was “shrinking”.

Rafael Grossi, the IAEA head, told reporters on Monday that it would be “a matter of just a few weeks” before Iran could get sufficient material needed for a nuclear weapon if they continued to develop their programme.

Iran has always insisted that its nuclear programme is peaceful and it is not seeking to build a nuclear bomb.

Published in Dawn, June 9th, 2022

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