Europeans drop plan to censure Iran at UN nuclear watchdog

By: AFP      Published: 06:11 PM, 4 Mar, 2021
Europeans drop plan to censure Iran at UN nuclear watchdog

European nations will not go ahead with a planned resolution criticising Iran at this week's meeting of the UN nuclear watchdog, diplomatic sources said on Thursday, as efforts were underway to revive an ailing 2015 deal between Tehran and world powers on its nuclear programme.

France, Britain and Germany had planned to introduce a resolution at a meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency's board of governors, with the support of the United States, criticising Iran's suspension of some IAEA inspections.

However, diplomats said the resolution, which had not yet been formally submitted, will now not be put forward.

The decision to hold off was taken "to give time to diplomacy", with one source pointing to "initiatives undertaken by (IAEA Director General Rafael) Grossi" and signs of "good faith" on the Iranian side.

Grossi announced on Thursday that Iran had accepted holding a series of meetings with the UN nuclear watchdog in order to "clarify a number of outstanding issues".

US President Joe Biden has said he is willing to bring the United States back to the landmark 2015 deal, known as the JCPOA.

It has been unravelling since Biden's predecessor Donald Trump pulled the US out of the agreement in 2018.

Iran welcomed the European decision not to go ahead with a resolution.

"Today's developments can keep open the path of diplomacy initiated by Iran and the IAEA," foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said.

Wisdom prevails

Grossi said "a technical meeting which will take place in Iran at the beginning of April" as part of a new process aimed at clarifying queries the IAEA has raised about the possible previous presence of nuclear material at undeclared sites.

He said it was his "intention to try to come to a satisfactory outcome for all of this in time for the next regular session of the board of governors" in June.

The Iranian ambassador to the IAEA, Kazem Gharib Abadi, tweeted on Thursday that "due to extensive diplomatic consultations ... a glimpse of hope is looming to prevent unnecessary tension".

"Wisdom prevails," he added.

Earlier this week a report in the Iranian Vatan-e-Emrouz newspaper said Tehran had "temporarily suspended the production of uranium metal on the order of the President (Hassan Rouhani)".

The government in Tehran has not disputed the accuracy of the report.

The production of uranium metal goes against a 15-year ban in the JCPOA on "producing or acquiring plutonium or uranium metals or their alloys".

However, Iran says it has the right to breach this and a series of other constraints on its nuclear activities laid down in the deal in retaliation for the US withdrawal from the accord and subsequent imposition of sanctions.

Iran says the uranium metal production is part of its plans to provide advanced fuel for a research reactor in Tehran.

But the topic is sensitive because uranium metal can be used as a component in nuclear weapons.

Late last month Iran suspended some IAEA inspections as US sanctions had not yet been lifted, described by Grossi as a "huge loss" for the agency.

However, after two days of talks between Grossi and Iranian officials in Tehran, a three-month arrangement was agreed under which Iran pledged to keep recordings "of some activities and monitoring equipment" and hand them over to the IAEA as and when US sanctions are lifted.

Iran had threatened to suspend that arrangement in the event of a critical resolution at the IAEA.

European states and the US criticised Iran's suspension of inspections in their statements to the IAEA's board this week.

"How does ending such monitoring serve Iran's goal of re-establishing confidence in its nuclear programmes and intentions?" asked US Charge d'Affaires Louis L Bono.

"These steps are counterproductive, and Iran should reverse them," he added.