LONDON: Britain, France and Germany on Tuesday said they “deeply regret” Iran’s decision to restrict site inspections by the UN’s nuclear watchdog after a US refusal to lift existing sanctions.
The three European signatories to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran said they were “united in underlining the dangerous nature of this decision.”
“It will significantly constrain the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency’s) access to sites and to safeguards-relevant information,” they added.
The statement from the European nations follows criticism from Washington on Monday of Tehran’s decision to restrict IAEA access to sites.
“We urge Iran to stop and reverse all measures that reduce transparency and to ensure full and timely cooperation with the IAEA,” the UK, France and Germany said.
Joint statement by FM @HeikoMaas and his & colleagues: We deeply regret that #Iran has started to limit @iaeaorg nuclear monitoring access. Our objective remains to support ongoing diplomatic efforts for a negotiated solution to preserve the #JCPoA.
— GermanForeignOffice (@GermanyDiplo) February 23, 2021
They added it was their objective to preserve the 2015 deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which lifted economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for agreements on limits to its nuclear program.
The European signatories, which stuck with the deal after the US withdrew under former president Donald Trump in 2018, said they would “support ongoing diplomatic efforts for a negotiated solution allowing for the return of Iran and the US to full compliance.”
Biden has signalled readiness to revive the nuclear deal but insists Iran first returns to all its nuclear commitments.
The Biden administration has said it is willing to join EU-led talks with Iran in search of a compromise.
Iran said it was limiting inspections because Trump-era sanctions had not been lifted following Sunday talks in Tehran with IAEA director Rafael Grossi meant to lay the foundations for political discussion.
“We take note of the conclusion of a temporary bilateral understanding between the IAEA and Iran which preserves for up to three months the possibility of access to certain information,” the UK, France and Britain said referring to Grossi’s visit to Tehran.
The changes to the IAEA’s monitoring and inspection regime, ordered by Iran’s conservative-dominated parliament last year, are the latest in a series of retaliatory measures Iran has adopted in response to Trump’s 2018 withdrawal from the agreement.
On Monday, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Iran might enrich uranium up to 60% purity if the country needed it and would never yield to US pressure over its nuclear program, state television reported.
That would far surpass the 3.67 percent limit Iran had accepted under the 2015 deal, but still be short of the 90 percent or so required for an atomic bomb.
“We… deeply regret that Iran has started, as of today, to suspend the Additional Protocol and the transparency measures under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA),” the foreign ministers of France, Germany and Britain said.
The UN’s atomic watchdog also said that it was “deeply concerned” by the possible presence of nuclear material at an undeclared site in Iran.
“The agency is deeply concerned that undeclared nuclear material may have been present at this undeclared location and that such nuclear material remains unreported by Iran under its safeguards agreement,” a report from the International Atomic Energy Agency seen by AFP said.
“After 18 months, Iran has not provided the necessary, full and technically credible explanation for the presence of the nuclear material particles,” the report said.
The site in question is in the Turquzabad district of Tehran, previously identified by Israel as an alleged site of secret atomic activity.
Sources say there is no indication the site has been used for processing uranium, but that it could have been used for storing it as late as the end of 2018.
In a separate report also issued on Tuesday, the IAEA said that Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium is now more than 14 times over the limit set down in its 2015 deal with world powers.
The report said that, as of February 16, Iran’s total enriched uranium stockpile was 2,967.8 kilogrammes.
The limit in the 2015 deal was set at 300 kilos (660 pounds) of enriched uranium in a particular compound form, which is the equivalent of 202.8 kilos of uranium in non-compound form.
Meanwhile, the UN nuclear watchdog’s chief on Tuesday described his weekend deal with Iran on continued monitoring of its nuclear activities for up to three months as one where data is gathered but his agency is only able to access it afterwards.
“This is a system that allows us to continue to monitor and to register all the key activities that are taking place throughout this period so that at the end of it we can recover all this information,” IAEA chief Rafael Grossi told an event hosted by the US Nuclear Threat Initiative think-tank.
“In other words, we will know exactly what happened, exactly how many components were fabricated, exactly how much material was processed or treated or enriched and so on and so forth.”
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said a new law had gone into effect Tuesday morning, under which Iran will no longer share surveillance footage of its nuclear facilities with the UN agency.
“We never gave them live video, but (recordings) were given daily and weekly,” Zarif said of the IAEA’s access to information recorded by camera monitors. “The tape recording of our (nuclear) program will be kept in Iran.”
The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Tehran’s civilian nuclear agency, has promised to preserve the tapes for three months, then hand them over to the IAEA — but only if granted sanctions relief. Otherwise, Iran has vowed to erase the tapes, narrowing the window for a diplomatic breakthrough.
(With AFP, AP and Reuters)