Iran's Removal Of More Cameras Could Deal 'Fatal Blow' To Reviving Nuclear Deal, IAEA Chief Says
By RFE/RL June 09, 2022
Iran has started removing 27 surveillance cameras from nuclear sites across the country, further reducing the agency's ability to monitor Iran's nuclear program, the head of the UN nuclear watchdog has said.
Speaking at a news conference in Vienna on June 9, Rafael Grossi, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said the move "poses a serious challenge to our ability to continue working there."
He added that if an agreement could not be reached to restore the cameras in three to four weeks, "this would be a fatal blow" to the chances of reviving the Iran nuclear deal with global powers.
"When we lose this, then it's anybody's guess," he added.
Germany, Britain, and France on June 9 urged Iran to "cease its nuclear escalation" and conclude the deal currently on the table to revive the 2015 nuclear agreement.
"There has been a viable deal on the table since March 2022," they said in a joint statement. "We regret that Iran has not seized the diplomatic opportunity to conclude the deal. We urge it to do so now."
Grossi said that the removal of the 27 cameras left "about 40 cameras" belonging to the IAEA in Iran to record nuclear activities. They are located in various parts of Iran, including Tehran, Natanz, and Isfahan.
Iran did not acknowledge it was removing the 27 cameras, though state media aired footage on June 9 of workers disconnecting two IAEA cameras, which Iran's Atomic Energy Organization said on June 8 would be disconnected.
The organization said it would disconnect the two cameras immediately before the IAEA board of governors passed a resolution censuring Iran for failing to explain uranium traces found at three undeclared sites.
The resolution was approved late on June 8 by 30 members of the IAEA board, with only Russia and China voting against it, while three others abstained.
Grossi previously criticized Iran for failing to provide "credible information" about the unexplained nuclear material discovered at the three sites, which has long been a point of contention between the agency and Tehran.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Iran must cooperate with the IAEA and provide technically credible information in response to the group's questions.
Negotiations on the Iran nuclear deal can only conclude if Tehran drops its extraneous demands, Blinken said.
In a statement on June 9, Tehran called the passage of the resolution a "wrong and unconstructive move" and accused the UN agency of being "hasty and unbalanced" in its move.
"The passing of the resolution will have no effect but the weakening of the trend of cooperation and interaction of the Islamic Republic of Iran with the IAEA," it said.
Later on June 9, President Ebrahim Raisi said Iran "will not back off a single step" from its positions, Iranian state media reported.
Senior Iranian nuclear officials had warned that passing the resolution could seriously damage attempts to revive the 2015 nuclear deal, which saw Tehran drastically limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.
The sanctions returned after then-President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the United States from the accord in 2018. Talks to restore it have been stalled since April.
Tehran, which denies that its nuclear program seeks to build a bomb, has backed away from some of its commitments since 2019, and European powers have been expressing concerns over how far Iran's nuclear activities have gone.
Iran has been engaged for more than a year in negotiations with Britain, Germany, France, Russia, and China directly -- and the United States indirectly -- to revive the deal, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
A revamped deal was reportedly close in March, but the talks in Vienna then abruptly stalled in April with Tehran and Washington blaming each other for failing to take the necessary political decisions to settle remaining issues.
The U.S. special envoy for Iran, Robert Malley, said on May 25 that the prospects of reviving the nuclear deal were "tenuous" at best and that it was more likely than not that talks ultimately will fail.
With reporting by AP and Reuters
Copyright (c) 2022. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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