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Iran Rejects Nuclear Agency's Criticism

Copyright © 2021 Energy Intelligence Group
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Iran has rejected criticism by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that it has undermined the UN watchdog’s efforts to monitor Tehran's nuclear commitments and conducted enrichment activity at odds with those commitments.

The reciprocal accusations could make it more difficult to revive indirect negotiations in Vienna between the US and Iran on reviving the 2015 nuclear agreement known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Those negotiations have been on hold since before the election of Iran's hard-line President Ebrahim Raisi in June, but they could resume this month.

In a report to the IAEA's board of directors seen by Energy Intelligence, the agency said its verification and monitoring work had been seriously undermined since February when Iran decided to stop complying with its nuclear-related commitments under the JCPOA, including the so-called Additional Protocol.

The report -- dated Sep. 7 -- claimed that Tehran has conducted "certain enrichment activities" that were inconsistent with the long-term enrichment and enrichment research and development plans it provided to the agency in January 2016.

US negotiator Robert Malley, who is visiting Moscow and Paris this week, has warned that Iran's recent nuclear work would eventually make it impossible "to simply rewind the clock."

Western Pressure

Iran's ambassador to the Vienna-based IAEA, Kazem Gharibabadi, hit back on Wednesday, saying all of Iran's nuclear activities, including enrichment, have been fully compliant with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the country's commitments under the JCPOA and its safeguards agreement with the IAEA.

Iran has exceeded the nuclear limits of the JCPOA, but its government argues that the structure of the deal allowed it to restart nuclear activities once it stopped receiving relief from sanctions.

"Since the other parties to the JCPOA have not fulfilled their obligations in lifting sanctions and the US policy of imposing illegal and unilateral sanctions on Tehran still goes on, no one can pressure Iran to halt its nuclear activities," Gharibabadi said, according to Iran's official Press TV website.

Iran has been hit particularly hard by the reinstatement in 2018 of US sanctions that led to a sharp reduction in its oil exports.

Gharibabadi urged the IAEA to "maintain its independence, impartiality and professionalism" and asked the organization's members to refrain from putting pressure on the agency and trying to use it as a tool "for their own political purposes."

His comments came after President Raisi said on Saturday that Iran was ready to return to the Vienna talks -- and would seek the complete lifting of sanctions -- but would not negotiate "under pressure" from the West.

Declining Confidence

The IAEA board of governors is due to start meeting next week before officially releasing the agency's updated report on Iran's nuclear activities.

IAEA chief Rafael Grossi had planned to travel to Tehran ahead of the board meeting, but Energy Intelligence understands the government in Tehran has not yet extended the necessary invitation.

The agency's Sep. 7 report detailed recent difficulties it had encountered in gaining access and information and said this had led to a significant decline in its confidence that it can effectively monitor Iran's nuclear program.

In one instance, according to the IAEA report, Iran said it had removed four surveillance cameras at a facility producing centrifuge components in Karaj, near Tehran, after an incident in June.

When the agency was granted access to the cameras, two had either been severely damaged or destroyed and the agency has so far been unable to recover the data from the destroyed camera, the report said.

Iranian officials have accused Israel of trying to sabotage the facility to derail the Vienna talks. They also blamed Israel for an attack on Iran's Natanz enrichment facility in April during an early round of the talks.

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