UN inspectors find radioactive traces at Iranian sites, raising new concerns

UN inspectors find radioactive traces at Iranian sites, raising new concerns
Iran has previously blocked inspectors from checking sites, raising concerns about its nuclear activities
2 min read
06 February, 2021
The IAEA has called for a fresh Iran deal [Getty]
Inspectors for the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have discovered new traces of radioactive material at two Iranian sites following an investigation last autumn, prompting concerns about Iran undertaking work on nuclear weapons, according to three diplomats.

Iran has denied that it is working on acquiring an atomic bomb, and says that its nuclear work is for power generation and health care. The diplomats added it was not clear what exactly was found in the samples at the sites.

However, Iran has also blocked inspectors from checking the sites for several months where the radioactive material was recently found, raising further questions about Tehran’s activities.

The 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which the US, UK, France, Germany, China and Russia agreed upon, entailed that Iran would limit its nuclear ambitions in return for a gradual easing of international sanctions.

Donald Trump withdrew the US from the Obama era deal in May 2018 and reimposed sanctions, with Tehran also ending its commitments.

The IAEA chief in December called for a fresh nuclear deal between Washington and Tehran.

The watchdog also said in January that Iran plans to increase its uranium enrichment by 20 percent, well above the JCPOA’s threshold.  

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken discussed reviving the Iran deal and other issues in a virtual meeting on Friday with the British, French and German foreign ministers.

"We just had an in-depth and important conversation on Iran ... to handle together nuclear and regional security challenges," tweeted French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.

Blinken last week said Iran would first need to again comply with the deal's terms before Washington lifts any sanctions.

US officials have debated options including International Monetary Fund loans to Tehran for coronavirus relief and easing sanctions that have prevented coronavirus aid reaching the country.

However, White House Press Secretary Jen Pkasi tweeted on Friday that "there are no pending policy announcements".

Though Biden in a Thursday speech mentioned Russia, China and Myanmar’s coup, he did not mention Iran, despite previously saying reviving the deal is a top foreign policy priority.

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