IAEA seeks broader inspections of Iran nuclear facilities

TEHRAN, Mar. 14 (MNA) – The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) says the agency seeks to restart broader inspections of nuclear facilities in Iran.

The production of uranium at higher levels of enrichment "brings Iran closer to levels for which the development of military uses could not be excluded," IAEA Director-General Rafael Grossi told Nikkei in an interview Friday. This is while Tehran has time and again highlighted that its nuclear program is peaceful and that nuclear weapons have no place in the country's defense doctrine. 

Following the US withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal (JCPOA) and the Europeans’ lack of commitments regarding the pact, Iran started to take reciprocal steps last year. In one of its latest steps away from the deal, Iran on January 4 announced the beginning of the process to enrich uranium to 20-percent purity at Fordow to reciprocate the American withdrawal and the European failure.

Grossi called this suspension "an extraordinary situation."

"It is clear that you need a very robust inspection presence if you want to have credible assurances that there are no military deviations," the chief of the UN nuclear watchdog said in his interview.

Iran has "a bit less than 20 kilograms of [20% uranium], but they have like 3,000 kilograms of enriched uranium already produced at lower levels," Grossi said. "So it's a growing amount."

And "they are increasing their capabilities" for enrichment by putting more equipment into operation, the Argentine diplomat-turned-IAEA chief told Nikkei.

Back in December 2020, Iranian legislators passed a law to further accelerate the development of the nuclear program. The law is a firm reaction to Washington’s 2018 withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal – the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – and the illegal sanctions the US has imposed against Iran since then.

Among other things, the law obliged the Iranian administration to stop allowing inspections beyond the Safeguards Agreement, including the voluntary implementation of the Additional Protocol, if the other parties to the JCPOA failed to deliver on their commitments.

Following the decision, Grossi paid an official day-long visit to Tehran and held talks with Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on issues relating to the IAEA's monitoring of Iran’s nuclear energy program.

Iran and the IAEA then issued a joint statement according to which, the two sides have reached a “temporary bilateral technical understanding.”

According to the statement, Iran said it would stop its voluntary implementation of the Additional Protocol to the NPT and would deny IAEA inspectors access to its nuclear facilities beyond the Safeguards Agreement as of February 23, 2021 for three months.

However, it added, “Iran continues to implement fully and without limitation its Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement with the IAEA as before.”

Iran and the IAEA have also agreed to a temporary bilateral technical understanding, compatible with the Law, whereby the IAEA will continue with its necessary verification and monitoring activities for up to 3 months (as per a technical annex).

MR/FNA13991224000059/PR

News Code 171065

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