UN watchdog criticises Iran over nuclear cooperation

UN watchdog criticises Iran over nuclear cooperation
The board of governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency criticised Iran for its lack of cooperation on Thursday, prompting a sharp rebuke from Tehran.
4 min read
17 November, 2022
The IAEA has criticised Iran for its lack of cooperation [Getty/file photo]

The UN nuclear watchdog's board of governors passed a resolution on Thursday criticising Iran for its lack of cooperation, prompting threats by Tehran that the move could impact their collaboration.

The adopted resolution may "affect the process of our country's cooperation" with the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Iran warned.

"We firmly believe that this resolution will have no result... it is intended to justify more unilateral sanctions against the Iranian nation," said Mohsen Naziri-Asl, Iran's envoy to the IAEA, according to the official IRNA news agency.

The motion brought by the United States, Britain, France and Germany - but voted against by China and Russia - is the second of its kind within six months and comes during an impasse over undeclared uranium particles found in Iran.

The resolution adopted by the IAEA's 35-nation board was carried by 26 votes in favour versus two against, with five abstentions and two countries absent, diplomats told AFP.

In the absence of progress in recent months, Washington, London, Paris and Berlin decided to increase the pressure.

This is the second critical resolution this year, after one in June, on the subject of a lack of "technically credible" answers provided by Iran regarding the particles.

The resolution underscores that it is "essential and urgent" for Iran to "act to fulfil its legal obligations".

The IAEA has been pressing Iran to explain the presence of undeclared man-made uranium found at three sites in the past, calling for "access to locations and material" as well as the collection of samples.

Before the vote on the resolution, the US delegation to the UN in Vienna said in their statement to the board that "Iran must now provide the necessary cooperation, no more empty promises".

"Iran must know that if it fails to provide the cooperation necessary... the Board will have to be prepared to take further action," the US statement said, alluding to the possibility of referring Tehran to the UN Security Council.

Meanwhile the EU delegation expressed its "serious concern" over the lack of progress from Iran in "clarifying and resolving the outstanding safeguards issues".

Iran had denounced the resolution Wednesday, stating that "documents which... are not true" were put forward.

"We have responded to all of the IAEA's allegations and accusations and if it had good intentions and a will to continue negotiations, they (Western countries) would not have presented a resolution", IRNA quoted Iran's atomic energy chief Mohamed Eslami as saying.

Russia's ambassador to the UN in Vienna Mikhail Ulyanov somewhat echoed that position after the resolution was passed on Thursday.

"From the Russian viewpoint, it is better than in June when a similar resolution got 30 votes in favour," he tweeted.

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The impasse over the agency's probe comes as wider talks to revive the 2015 nuclear deal are stalled.

The agreement Iran reached with Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States gave Tehran relief from sanctions in return for guarantees it could not develop an atomic weapon.

The deal collapsed after Washington's unilateral withdrawal in 2018 under then-president Donald Trump.

"Iran today can produce the fissile material needed for a nuclear weapon quicker than at any point in its history," Henry Rome, a researcher at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told AFP.

Iran has always denied wanting a nuclear arsenal.

The arrival of Joe Biden in the White House had helped relaunch negotiations on Iran's nuclear dossier, and hopes for an agreement had been repeatedly revived.

In recent months no progress has been made to resurrect the ailing 2015 deal.