Iran advances nuclear enrichment while still barring inspectors: IAEA

Watchdog says stonewalling of inspectors ‘extreme and unjustified’ as stockpile reaches 22 times the nuclear deal limit.

FILE PHOTO: The logo of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is seen at the organisation's headquarters in Vienna, Austria, March 6, 2023. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger/File Photo
The headquarters of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna, Austria [Leonhard Foeger/ Reuters]

Iran continues barring several experienced nuclear inspectors, and has enough uranium enriched to up to 60 percent purity, close to weapons-grade, for three atom bombs, according to confidential reports by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The United Nations nuclear watchdog on Wednesday slammed Iran’s decision to withdraw the accreditation of several inspectors, announced in September, as “extreme and unjustified” and said it “directly and seriously affected” the agency’s work.

“Iran’s stance is not only unprecedented, but unambiguously contrary to the cooperation that is required,” IAEA chief Rafael Grossi wrote in a report to the agency’s member states.

Iran in September withdrew the accreditation of several inspectors, a move Tehran described as retaliation for “political abuses” by the United States, France, Germany and Britain.

The move targets eight top inspectors, with French and German nationals among them, according to a diplomatic source.

In the report, the IAEA said it received a letter from Iran on Wednesday, reiterating its position “that it was within its rights” to withdraw the accreditation, but was “exploring possibilities to address the request” of the agency to reinstate it.

Member states can generally veto inspectors assigned to visit their nuclear facilities under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Grossi expressed “his hope that this matter will be resolved promptly”.

In a separate confidential report, the IAEA said that Iran’s estimated stockpile of enriched uranium had reached more than 22 times the limit set out in the 2015 accord between Tehran and world powers.

Iran’s total enriched uranium stockpile was estimated at 4,486.8kg (9,891.7lb) as of October 28, up by 693.1kg (1,528lb) from August, the report said. The limit in the 2015 deal was set at 202.8kg (447lb).

The report comes amid long-standing tensions between Iran and the agency, which is tasked with monitoring a nuclear programme that Western nations have long suspected is aimed at eventually developing a nuclear weapon. Iran denies wanting to build nuclear weapons.

In 2015, major world powers reached a deal with Iran, aimed at curbing Tehran’s nuclear programme in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions.

That started to unravel in 2018 when then-US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from it and reimposed sanctions, and Iran retaliated by stepping up its nuclear activities.

European Union-mediated efforts to revive the deal have so far proved fruitless.


Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies