Iran holding IAEA inspector was ‘outrageous provocation’: U.S.

Iran holding IAEA inspector was ‘outrageous provocation’: U.S.
By Francois Murphy

VIENNA (Reuters) – The European Union and United States expressed concern on Thursday at Iran’s holding of an inspector from the U.N. nuclear watchdog last week, with the U.S. envoy to the agency calling it an “outrageous provocation” that must have consequences.

Reuters first reported on Wednesday that Iran had held the inspector and seized her travel documents in what appears to be the first incident of its kind since Iran’s nuclear deal with major powers was struck in 2015.

Iran confirmed that it prevented the inspector from gaining access to its main uranium-enrichment facility at Natanz. Its envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency told reporters that it was because she tested positive for traces of explosives but then no longer did after going to the toilet while waiting for a further search, which prompted further investigation.

“The detention of an IAEA inspector in Iran is an outrageous provocation,” the U.S. ambassador to the IAEA, Jackie Wolcott, said in a statement https://vienna.usmission.gov/iaea-board-of-governors-u-s-statement-on-safeguards-matters-in-iran to an emergency meeting of the IAEA’s 35-nation Board of Governors.

“All Board members need to make clear now and going forward that such actions are completely unacceptable, will not be tolerated, and must have consequences.”

The European Union said it was “deeply concerned” by what happened. Iran’s ambassador to the IAEA said the inspector was repatriated and Tehran had asked that she be removed from the list of designated inspectors. The IAEA declined to comment.

“We understand that the incident was resolved and call upon Iran to ensure that no such incidents occur in the future,” an EU statement said.

Acting IAEA chief Cornel Feruta, who will be succeeded by Argentina’s Rafael Grossi next month, called Thursday’s board meeting to discuss the incident and Iran’s failure to give a convincing explanation for uranium traces found at a site in Tehran.

Feruta told Iran in September that “time is of the essence” in addressing the IAEA’s questions on how it found the traces on samples taken in February at the undeclared site, which Iran has said was a carpet-cleaning facility.

The EU and United States called on Iran to cooperate with the IAEA in explaining the traces of uranium that was processed but not enriched. A U.S. official said there were also signs of “activities consistent with sanitization” by Iran there.

“Time was of the essence in September; now that time is up,” Wolcott, the U.S. envoy, said in her statement.

(Reporting by Francois Murphy; Editing by Alex Richardson and Giles Elgood)

Iran fulfilling nuclear deal commitments: IAEA chief

Iran fulfilling nuclear deal commitments: IAEA chief

ABU DHABI (Reuters) – Iran is fulfilling its commitments under the nuclear deal with world powers and U.N. inspectors are facing no problems in their verification efforts, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) director-general said on Monday.

U.S. President Donald Trump said earlier this month that he would not continue to certify the multinational 2015 agreement, reached under his predecessor Barack Obama, and warned that he might ultimately terminate it.

Iran would abandon the agreement if it were deemed not be serving its national interests, President Hassan Rouhani said in reaction to Trump’s decision. But he also said, “No president can revoke an international deal…(and) Iran will continue to honour its commitments under the deal.”

The other parties to the accord – Britain, Germany, France, Russia, China and the European Union have all reaffirmed their commitment to it and urged the United States not to back out.

IAEA chief Yukiya Amano, whose inspectors are tasked with monitoring compliance with the deal, reiterated that Iran was adhering to it.

“The IAEA can state that such nuclear-related commitments are being implemented,” Amano told a news conference in Abu Dhabi following a trip to Iran on Sunday where he met with Rouhani and other officials.

“I requested that Iran … fully implement the nuclear-related commitments. This (was) the main thrust of the meeting in Iran … Regarding the activities of our inspectors, they are discharging their responsibility without problem,” he said.

Under the agreement, Iran undertook to restrict its nuclear programme to help ensure it could not be put to developing atomic bombs in exchange for the lifting of trade and financial sanctions that had hobbled its oil-based economy.

Amano added that he had told Iranian officials the nuclear deal was a “significant gain for verification”.

Speaking on the sidelines of an international conference on nuclear power in the United Arab Emirates, Amano declined comment on U.S. policy towards Iran and on Iran’s absence from the meeting, which draws together IAEA member states.

(Reporting by Sylvia Westall and Stanley Carvalho; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

IAEA chief calls for clarity on disputed section of Iran nuclear deal

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Yukiya Amano reacts during an interview with Reuters at the IAEA headquarters in Vienna, Austria September 26, 2017. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger

By Francois Murphy

neVIENNA (Reuters) – The U.N. nuclear watchdog’s chief urged major powers on Tuesday to clarify a part of their nuclear deal with Iran dealing with technology that could be used to develop an atom bomb, an area Russia said the agency should leave alone.

The 2015 pact between six major powers and Iran restricts its nuclear activities in exchange for the lifting of sanctions against the Islamic Republic. Compliance with those curbs is being verified by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano has defended the deal as a major step forward while declining to comment specifically on criticism of it by the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump, who has called the accord – reached by predecessor Barack Obama – “an embarrassment to the United States”.

But while Nikki Haley, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, has infuriated Tehran by saying the IAEA should widen its inspections to include military sites, diplomats say Russia has been trying to restrict the agency’s role by arguing it has no authority to police a broadly worded section of the deal.

That section bans “activities which could contribute to the development of a nuclear explosive device”. It lists examples such as using computer models that simulate a nuclear bomb, or designing multi-point, explosive detonation systems.

Unlike many other parts of the deal, the provision, known as Section T, makes no mention of the IAEA or specifics of how it will be verified. Russia says that means the IAEA has no authority over it. Western powers and the agency disagree.

“Our tools are limited,” Amano told Reuters when asked if his agency had the means to verify Section T.

“In other sections, for example, Iran has committed to submit declarations, place their activities under safeguards or ensure access by us. But in Section T I don’t see any (such commitment).”

Amano said he hoped the parties to the agreement would discuss the issue in the Joint Commission, a forum created by the deal, adding that even a clearer definition of terms such as the technology referred to would be an improvement.

“More clarification would be helpful … Russia has a different view. They believe that it is not the mandate of the IAEA. Others have different views and discussions are ongoing.”

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Trump has hinted that he may not recertify the agreement when it comes up for review by a mid-October deadline, in which case the U.S. Congress would have 60 days to decide whether to reimpose sanctions waived under the accord, known officially as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Amano repeated, however, that Iran was implementing its nuclear commitments under the deal. He said complementary access – often consisting of short-notice inspections carried out under the IAEA Additional Protocol, which Iran is implementing under the accord – was going smoothly.

“Complementary access in Iran is being undertaken without problem and the number of accesses is quite high,” he said.

When asked if a successful Iran deal could help encourage a political solution in nuclear-armed North Korea, to which the IAEA has no access, Amano said the two situations were quite different. But he added: “I also do not say that there’s no comparison, because in the JCPOA’s case, diplomacy worked.”

(Editing by Mark Heinrich)

U.S. and Iran argue over inspections at nuclear watchdog meeting

U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry attends the opening of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) General Conference at their headquarters in Vienna, Austria September 18, 2017.

By Shadia Nasralla

VIENNA (Reuters) – The United States and Iran quarreled over how Tehran’s nuclear activities should be policed at a meeting of the U.N. nuclear watchdog on Monday, in a row sparked last month by Washington’s call for wider inspections.

Key U.S. allies are worried by the possibility of Washington pulling out of a 2015 landmark nuclear deal under which Iran agreed to curb its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions against it being lifted.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley last month called for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to inspect a wider range of sites in Iran, including military ones, to verify it is not breaching its nuclear deal with world powers. Her remarks were rejected by a furious Tehran.

“We will not accept a weakly enforced or inadequately monitored deal,” U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry told the IAEA General Conference, an annual meeting of the agency’s member states that began on Monday.

He did not say whether he thought the deal was currently weakly enforced.

“The United States … strongly encourages the IAEA to exercise its full authorities to verify Iran’s adherence to each and every nuclear-related commitment under the JCPOA,” Perry added, referring to the deal by its official name — the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

Perry was speaking shortly after the General Conference formally approved the appointment of Yukiya Amano, a 70-year-old career diplomat from Japan, to a third term as IAEA director general.

U.S. President Donald Trump has called the accord “the worst deal ever negotiated” and has until mid-October to make a decision that could lead to Washington reimposing sanctions on Iran.

Iran’s nuclear chief, Ali Akbar Salehi, told the meeting in Vienna that Washington had made “a host of unjustifiable peculiar demands with regard to the verification of our strictly peaceful nuclear program”.

“We remain confident that the (IAEA) will resist such unacceptable demands and continue to execute the agency’s … role with strict objectivity, fairness and impartiality,” he said. Salehi also criticized what he called “the American administration’s overtly hostile attitude”

The IAEA has the authority to request access to facilities in Iran, including military ones, if there are new and credible indications of banned nuclear activities there, but diplomats say Washington has yet to provide such indications.

Amano often describes his agency’s work as technical rather than political and has declined to comment on Haley’s remarks about inspections. In a speech on Monday, however, he defended the deal as an important step forward.

“The nuclear-related commitments undertaken by Iran under the JCPOA are being implemented,” Amano said. “Iran is now subject to the world’s most robust nuclear verification regime.”

 

(Writing by Francois Murphy; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)