The United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency said Thursday that Iran is removing 27 surveillance cameras from its nuclear facilities, warning that this could be a “fatal blow” to negotiations to revive a historic agreement. Talks began in April last year to bring the United States back into the 2015 deal, lift sanctions, and return Iran to compliance, limiting its nuclear activities.
But negotiations have stalled since March, and members of the International Atomic Energy Agency on Wednesday passed a resolution blaming Iran for its lack of cooperation with the agency, raising tensions.
Iran condemned the proposal as “unconstructive,” and announced earlier on Wednesday that it had turned off some of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s cameras monitoring its nuclear sites. “What we have learned is that 27 cameras … have been removed in Iran,” International Atomic Energy Agency chief Rafael Grossi told reporters on Thursday.
“So this of course presents a serious challenge to our ability to continue working there.” Grossi urged Iran to contact him “immediately”.
He said that if a solution was not found within three to four weeks of the issue, it would be a “fatal blow” to the negotiations.
Grossi said about 40 surveillance cameras were still in the Islamic Republic.
Wednesday’s proposal – which was approved by 30 of the IAEA’s 35-member Board of Governors, with only Russia and China rejected – was the first to criticize Iran since June 2020.
The Iranian Foreign Ministry criticized the decision – submitted by the United States, Britain, France and Germany – as a “political, unconstructive and incorrect measure”.
The decision came after the International Atomic Energy Agency said Iran had continued to fail to provide an adequate explanation for the earlier discovery of traces of enriched uranium at three sites Tehran had not declared to have hosted nuclear activities.
Iran, which has already reacted angrily to Grossi’s decision to visit Israel before the board meeting, accused the IAEA of relying too much on “fabricated” Israeli intelligence reports.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett welcomed the IAEA’s rebuke of Iran.
Bennett said before heading to the United Arab Emirates, a fellow critic of Iran, for an unannounced visit on Thursday.
After the resolution was adopted, the United States, Britain, France and Germany urged Iran to “fulfill its legal obligations and cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency.”
The US State Department said that if reported Iranian countermeasures were confirmed, they would be “extremely regrettable” and “counterproductive” to attempts to revive the 2015 nuclear deal.
The Foreign Ministry in Tehran said that besides disabling the cameras in response to the IAEA’s censure proposal, Iran has also installed additional advanced centrifuges to enrich uranium.
The landmark agreement set limits to Iran’s nuclear activities in exchange for relief from international sanctions. But it has been in disarray since then US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from it in 2018 and reimposed stifling sanctions.
In response, Iran, which has repeatedly denied any ambition to develop a nuclear weapons capability, has begun rolling back its commitments under the deal.
European capitals are expressing growing concern about how far Iran has gone in resuming its nuclear activities since the United States began reimposing sanctions.
Iran has built up large stockpiles of enriched uranium, some of which is enriched to levels well above those required for nuclear power generation.
On Monday, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency said it would take “only a few weeks” before Iran could obtain enough materials to build a nuclear weapon if it continued to advance its programme.
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