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Iran disconnects some IAEA cameras at nuclear sites

IAEA inspector sets up surveillance equipment at the uranium conversion facility in Isfahan in 2005. (AP pic )

TEHRAN: Iran on Wednesday disconnected some of the UN’s nuclear watchdog’s monitoring cameras, the country’s Atomic Energy Organisation said in a statement, after Western nations accused Tehran of non-cooperation.

The move was announced after a resolution submitted by Britain, France, Germany and the US to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to censure Iran, the first since June 2020 when a similar motion censuring Iran was adopted.

Iran said the disconnected cameras had been operating beyond the safeguard agreement between Tehran and the IAEA.

“As of today, the relevant authorities have been instructed to cut off the On-Line Enrichment Monitor (OLEM) and the flow meter cameras of the agency,” Iran’s nuclear organisation said in a statement.

These cameras were operating as a “goodwill gesture” which was not “appreciated” by the IAEA but considered an “obligation”, it added.

While the statement did not specify how many cameras were turned off, it said “more than 80% of the agency’s existing cameras are operating according to the safeguard agreement, and will continue to operate just as before”.

Behrouz Kamalvandi, the spokesman for Iran’s nuclear organisation, “monitored the shutdown of two IAEA cameras at a nuclear facility”, the statement added.

Iran’s actions followed a joint statement to the IAEA by Britain, France and Germany, in which they said they “strongly urge Iran to stop escalating its nuclear programme and to urgently conclude (the) deal that is on the table”.

The motion is seen as a sign of growing Western impatience with Iran after talks on reviving the 2015 deal stalled in March.

‘No hidden activities’

Earlier, Iran’s nuclear organisation’s chief Mohammad Eslami said “Iran has no hidden or undocumented nuclear activities or undisclosed sites,” according to state news agency IRNA.

“These fake documents seek to maintain maximum pressure” on Iran, he added, referring to the crippling economic sanctions reimposed by Washington when then president Donald Trump abandoned a nuclear deal between Iran and major powers in 2018.

“This recent move by three European countries and the US by presenting a draft resolution against Iran is a political one,” Eslami said, adding that “Iran has had maximum cooperation with the IAEA.”

The trigger for the latest Western condemnation was a report issued by the IAEA late last month, in which it said it still has questions about traces of enriched uranium previously found at three sites, which Iran had not declared as having hosted nuclear activities.

The watchdog said those questions were “not clarified” in its meetings with Iranian authorities.

The IAEA board of governors is expected to vote on the motion later on Wednesday or on Thursday, diplomats said.

European governments have expressed mounting concern over how far Iran has gone since the US reimposed sanctions in resuming nuclear activities it had halted under the 2015 deal.

Iran has built up large stockpiles of enriched uranium, some of it enriched to levels far higher than those needed for nuclear power generation.

“Its nuclear programme is now more advanced than at any point in the past,” the governments said in their joint statement, adding Iran’s accumulation of enriched uranium has no “credible civilian justification”.

Talks to revive the nuclear accord started in April 2021 with the aim of bringing the US back in, lifting sanctions and getting Iran to return to the limits it agreed to on its nuclear activities.

But negotiations have stalled in recent months and the EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell warned last weekend that the possibility of returning to the accord was “shrinking”.

IAEA head Rafael Grossi told reporters on Monday that it would be “a matter of just a few weeks” before Iran could get sufficient material needed for a nuclear weapon if they continued to develop their programme.

Iran has always insisted that its nuclear programme is peaceful and it is not seeking to build a nuclear bomb.