UN Nuclear Watchdog's 35-nation Board Rebukes Iran Over Uranium Traces

Western powers call on Iran to 'heed the call of the international community' and provide clarity on its nuclear activities, as Iran maintains its response has been 'firm & proportionate'

Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant, during an official ceremony to kick-start works on a second reactor at the facility in 2019.
Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant, during an official ceremony to kick-start works on a second reactor at the facility in 2019.Credit: ATTA KENARE - AFP

The UN nuclear watchdog's 35-nation Board of Governors overwhelmingly passed a resolution criticizing Iran for failing to explain uranium traces found at three undeclared sites, diplomats at a closed-door meeting said on Wednesday.

Only two countries, Russia and China, opposed the text while 30 voted in favor and three abstained, the diplomats said.

The text says the board "expresses profound concern" the traces remain unexplained due to insufficient cooperation by Iran and calls on Iran to engage with the watchdog "without delay."

France, Britain, Germany and the United States said in a joint statement that "We urge Iran to heed the call of the international community to fulfil its legal obligations, and cooperate with the IAEA to fully clarify and resolve issues without further delay."

Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh said in a tweet that the U.S., France and Britain and Germany "put their shortsighted agenda ahead of IAEA's credibility by pushing a miscalculated & ill-advised Res. against a country w/ the world's most transparent peaceful nuclear program. Iran's response is firm & proportionate."

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said that the vote is a "clear warning sign to Iran. If Iran continues its activities, leading nations must take the Iran issue back to the Security Council."

Israel's Foreign Ministry called it "a necessary first step in order to restore Iran to full compliance with its obligations," adding that "the international community must act against Iran by all means at its disposal."

"Iran continues to systematically violate all international commitments, and is working tirelessly to hide evidence and disrupt investigations in order to deceive the international community," the ministry said in its statement.

"If Iran does this and the Director General is able to report that the unresolved safeguards issues are no longer outstanding, we would see no need for further Board consideration and action on these issues," it said.

Moments before the vote, Iran's state TV reported that Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said Tehran has presented a new proposal to the United States to revive the 2015 nuclear deal.

Earlier on Wednesday, Iranian state television reported that two surveillance cameras of the United Nation's nuclear watchdog that monitored one of Iran's atomic sites had been shut off.

"So far, the IAEA has not only been ungrateful for Iran's extensive cooperation but has also considered it as a duty. From today, relevant authorities have ordered that surveillance cameras of the Online Enrichment Monitor (OLEM) be shut down," Iranian state TV said, referring to cameras trained on a machine that measures enrichment levels in real time.

The IAEA has, however, not had access to the data collected by such cameras or the OLEM for more than a year. The agency hopes it will gain access to that data, which remains with Iran, at a later date.

The report did not identify the site, but it appeared to be a new pressure technique by Tehran as Western nations seek to censure Iran at a meeting this week of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Later the IAEA informed member states in a report seen by Reuters that Iran had started installing a cascade, or cluster, of advanced IR-6 centrifuges at its underground enrichment plant at Natanz, a longstanding plan it had not acted on for months.

Iran has now also told the agency it plans to install two more such cascades of the uranium-enriching machines, which are much more effective than first-generation IR-1 centrifuges, the only ones the 2015 deal allows Iran to enrich with at the Natanz plant.

"Sadly some Board members don't get the sensitivity of the moment, pushing for untimely initiatives like anti-#Iran resolution. Clearly #ViennaTalks taught them nothing: pressuring Tehran entails escalation," Russia's mission to the IAEA tweeted before the vote.

Russia's mission in Vienna's Twitter. Credit: Russia's mission in Vienna's Twitter.

Since Washington withdrew from that deal in 2018 under then-President Donald Trump and reimposed sanctions against Iran, Tehran has breached many of the deal's restrictions on its nuclear activities including enrichment.

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