Addressing the board of the UN nuclear agency Monday, Rafael Mariano Grossi, the agency chief, reiterated criticism of Iran’s cooperation in his recent report.
France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States have been discussing a possible resolution censuring Tehran at the quarterly board meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency, while China and Russia have warned this could upset negotiations over reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement.
The most contentious part of Grossi’s report referred to the discovery of uranium traces at three sites in Iran linked to nuclear work carried out before 2003.
“Iran has not provided explanations that are technically credible in relation to the Agency’s findings at three undeclared locations in Iran,” he said. “Nor has Iran informed the Agency of the current location, or locations, of the nuclear material and/or of the equipment contaminated with nuclear material, that was moved from Turquzabad in 2018.”
Grossi told the board – which meets from today until June 10 – that he could not confirm Iran’s adherence to its ‘safeguards agreement’ as a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty “unless and until” Tehran provided “technically credible explanations for the presence of uranium particles of anthropogenic origin at Turquzabad, Varamin and ‘Marivan’ and informs the Agency of all current locations of the nuclear material and/or of the contaminated equipment.”
While these issues do not directly relate to talks to restore the 2015 agreement, the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action), they are seen by the US and three European states as a crucial issue of Iran’s credibility.
Iranian Charge d'Affaires to UN in Vienna Mohammad Reza Ghaebi
Iran quickly rejected Grossi’s speech to the agency board. Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said the IAEA chief had made a “hurried response” with his report. “We had planned a third round of discussions but he didn’t wait,” the spokesman said, adding that any resolution would “impact negatively on cooperation with the IAEA and on the nuclear talks.”
Mohammad Eslami, head of the Atomic Energy Agency of Iran, told al-Jazeera television that Iran had given “very precise answers” to the IAEA. According to an agreement reached by Grossi in early March, Tehran was required to give written replies by March 20 and satisfy the agency over any queries by June 21.
Iran, China and Russia have all argued that questions arising from Iran’s pre-2003 nuclear work are ‘technical’ and should not derail ‘political’ efforts to revive the JCPOA, from which President Donald Trump withdrew the US in 2018, imposing ‘maximum pressure’ sanctions that prompted Iran after 2019 to expand its nuclear program beyond JCPOA limits.
While in the past welcoming the ‘technical’ role of the IAEA, Tehran criticized last week’s trip by Grossi to Israel, which is not an NPT signatory and which is the only nuclear-armed Middle East state. Iran’s English-language outlet Press TV accused Grossi and Israeli prime minister Naftali Bennett of “collusion,” and contrasted Israel’s secret nuclear arsenal with Iran facing extensive IAEA inspections.
Any vote at the IAEA board on a resolution critical of Iran will be made by a simple majority of the 35 members, but a referral to the United Nations Security Resolution would be in different circumstances to 2005-6 when Russia and China voted for international sanctions at the UNSC.
Grossi told the board the IAEA was open to continued dialogue with Iran to resolve all issues. “As in the past, and in order for the agency to be in a position to provide assurance that Iran’s nuclear program is exclusively peaceful, the agency remains ready to re-engage without delay with Iran to resolve these matters,” he said.
Grossi told a press briefing: “These issues will not go away.”