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WORLD | 04-12-2019 11:00

Rafael Grossi presses Iran about undeclared site, defends inspectors

On his first day as director-general of the UN's nuclear watchdog agency, Argentine diplomat prompts Iran to break their silence regarding the particles of uranium found in an undeclared Tehran site.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)'s new chief, Rafael Grossi pushed for long-awaited information from Iran this Tuesday, regarding the discovery of uranium particles at a site near Tehran, and spoke out in defence of his inspectors after one of them faced intimidation while investigating an Iranian nuclear plant. 

The agency's inspectors monitor the implementation of the 2015 deal on Iran's nuclear programme – known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – which seems in danger of imminent collapse.

On his first day as head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Argentine diplomat told the Associated Press that the organisation has been "in conversation" with Iran about the discovery of traces of uranium and that it is "not a closed matter."

"The process continues," he told the New York based news agency. "We have so far not received an entirely satisfactory reply from them, but the exchanges continue."

The US and Israel had been pressing the IAEA for some time to look into the Turquzabad facility, which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described to the U.N. in 2018 as a "secret atomic warehouse."

In November, the agency confirmed that its inspectors had found uranium of man-made origin "at a location in Iran not declared to the agency." 

Israel has alleged that material at the site came from an Iranian military program involving work on nuclear weapons and was subsequently cleared out. Iran denies pursuing nuclear weapons and says its program is peaceful. 

No intimidation

The newly appointed IAEA chief warned against intimidating its inspectors after one of them had their accreditation revoked by Iran over an incident at a nuclear facility.

"I stand by my inspectors and [they] have a very important work to do, they shouldn't be intimidated... in any way," he told the Agence France Presse news agency.

Last month, Iran confirmed it had revoked an IAEA inspector's accreditation in October after she allegedly triggered a security check – used to detect explosives – at the entrance gate to the Natanz enrichment plant.

She was temporarily prevented from leaving Iran, which the Vienna-based IAEA described as "unacceptable". 

The agency has said there was "no indication that would confirm" the allegation that she was carrying explosive material. 

The 58-year-old,  who began work as director-general on Tuesday, told AFP: "Countries must not interfere with the work of our inspectors and this is the message we have conveyed to our Iranian colleagues".

On Sunday, the speaker of Iran's parliament Ali Larijani warned Tehran would be "forced to seriously reconsider some of its commitments" to the IAEA if the European parties to the JCPOA were to trigger a dispute mechanism that could lead to sanctions.

Grossi added in his comments to the French news agency that while the IAEA "paid attention" to such statements, "it doesn't mean that it affects in a direct manner what we're doing" and that no such communication had been received directly from Iran, adding that such comments were "part of a political discussion between Iran and other countries, not us."

– TIMES/AFP/AP

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