Iran failed to answer questions on uranium find, says IAEA head

UN nuclear agency head Grossi has been pushing Tehran for answers on three sites dating back many years where inspections revealed traces of uranium of man-made origin

By AP and TOI STAFF7 June 2021, 4:55 pm  Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, Rafael Mariano Grossi from Argentina, addresses the media during a news conference behind plexiglass shields regarding the agency’s monitoring of Iran’s nuclear energy program at the International Center in Vienna, Austria, Monday, June 7, 2021. (AP Photo/Lisa Leutner)

Iran has failed to answer questions about the discovery of uranium particles at former undeclared sites in the country, the head of the UN nuclear watchdog said Monday, calling on Tehran to provide information “without further delay.”

Rafael Grossi, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, has been pushing Iran for answers on three sites dating back many years where inspections had revealed traces of uranium of man-made origin, suggesting they were once connected to Iran’s nuclear program.

The issue is separate from the ongoing negotiations aimed at bringing the United States back into Iran’s 2015 nuclear accord with world powers.

Grossi said in March that Iran had agreed to sit down with international technical experts investigating the discovery, and said he hoped to “come to some satisfactory outcome” by the time of the IAEA board meeting in June.Iran’s Governor to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Kazem Gharib Abadi, Political deputy at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Iran, Abbas Araghchi, and Deputy Secretary General and Political Director of the European External Action Service (EEAS), Enrique Mora leave the Grand Hotel Vienna where closed-door nuclear talks take place in Vienna, Austria, June 2, 2021. (AP/Lisa Leutner)

But in comments Monday to the IAEA’s board of governors, Grossi said that “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.”

He said Iran also hasn’t answered questions regarding another undeclared location.

“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,” Grossi said.

“For objectivity’s sake, I should say that the Iranian government has reiterated its will to engage and to cooperate and to provide answers, but they haven’t done that so far,” he told reporters later. “So I hope this may change, but as we speak, we haven’t had any concrete progress.”

Grossi also said  it was “becoming increasingly difficult” to extend a temporary inspections arrangement with Iran. In February, Tehran suspended some IAEA inspections, leading the agency to strike a temporary three-month deal allowing it to continue its activities despite the reduced level of access.

“I can see this space narrowing down,” said Gros

In late May the ad hoc arrangement was extended until June 24, with Grossi describing the remaining time as “very short”.The Iranian flag waves outside of the UN building that hosts the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, office inside in Vienna, Austria, July 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak)

Iran and world powers are engaged in talks in Vienna to rescue the 2015 nuclear deal after former US president Donald Trump walked away from it in 2018 and reimposed crippling sanctions on Tehran. Iran started limiting inspections in a bid to put pressure on the Biden administration to lift the sanctions.

US President Joe Biden has signaled his willingness to revive the plan. While progress has been made and important aspects of a future deal have been hammered out, diplomats have said that tough decisions lie ahead and that nothing would be agreed on until everything was agreed on.

For this to happen, the US would need to return to the accord and lift the sanctions reinstated by Trump while Tehran would have to re-commit to full compliance with nuclear obligations it progressively withdrew from since 2019.

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