Iran has failed to explain traces of processed uranium found at several undeclared sites, a quarterly report by the UN nuclear watchdog showed on Monday, possibly setting up a fresh diplomatic clash between Tehran and the West.
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Three months ago Britain, France and Germany scrapped a U.S.-backed plan for the International Atomic Energy Agency's 35-nation Board of Governors to criticize Iran for failing to fully explain the origin of the particles; the three backed off as IAEA chief Rafael Grossi announced fresh talks with Iran.
"After many months, Iran has not provided the necessary explanation for the presence of the nuclear material particles at any of the three locations where the Agency has conducted complementary accesses (inspections)," a report by Grossi to member states seen by Reuters said. Grossi had hoped to report progress in the talks before the board meets again next week.
It will now be up to the three European powers to decide whether to revive their push for a resolution criticizing Iran, which could undermine wider negotiations to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal at talks currently underway in Vienna. Grossi had hoped to report progress before the board meets again next week.
"The Director General is concerned that the technical discussions between the Agency and Iran have not yielded the expected results," the report said.
"The lack of progress in clarifying the Agency's questions concerning the correctness and completeness of Iran's safeguards declarations seriously affects the ability of the Agency to provide assurance of the peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear program," it added.
Iran started limiting inspections in a bid to put pressure on the government of U.S. President Joe Biden to lift crippling sanctions reimposed after then President Donald Trump pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran unilaterally in 2018.
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Under the deal, the IAEA placed around 2,000 tamper-proof seals on nuclear material and equipment. Those seals communicated electronically to inspectors. Automated measuring devices also provided real-time data from the program.
Talks are currently underway in Vienna for the U.S. to rejoin the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA.