VIENNA – The United States and the European Union expressed their concern on Thursday over a recent incident in Iran involving an inspector of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), who was denied access to a major nuclear installation.
At an extraordinary meeting of the IAEA Board of Governors in Vienna, the EU delegation said it was “deeply concerned” about the matter, although it acknowledged the issue seemed to have “been resolved.”
It also called on Tehran to ensure IAEA inspectors are able to carry out their obligations.
The US ambassador to the IAEA, Jackie Walcott, described the arrest of the inspector as an act of intimidation.
Speaking to the press after the Board meeting, the US representative highlighted concern over the detection of nuclear materials that have not been declared by Iran – which would violate the current agreement.
Walcott said Iran has no explanation over the materials, adding that it needed to explain where they came from and where they were at present.
The Iranian ambassador to the IAEA, Kazem Gharibabadi, downplayed the concerns addressed Thursday by the executive body of the UN’s nuclear agency.
The Iranian diplomat told the press the IAEA inspector was not arrested.
He said an explosives detector at the entrance to the Natanz enrichment plant was activated several times when the inspector’s personal belongings were being checked – a version of events that has not been confirmed by the IAEA.
After the woman left Iran, Tehran asked the international agency to remove it from the list of inspectors verifying the Iranian nuclear program, Gharibabadi added.
The incident took place in the days ahead of the IAEA releasing its next report on Iran’s compliance with the 2015 nuclear agreement – an agreement the US abandoned last year and which Iran has gradually been violating in a bid to put pressure on the other signatories – France, the UK and Germany.
On Thursday Iran resumed the enrichment of uranium in Fordo, an underground nuclear plant – a fourth step in reducing its obligations set out in the agreement.
The deal paves the way for international sanctions against Iran to be eliminated and economic incentives in exchange for significant limitations on the country’s nuclear program – the aim being to prevent Tehran from making a nuclear bomb.
But Washington withdrew from the agreement last year, alleging that Iran was partaking in destabilizing activities in the Middle East, and imposed new sanctions on Iran’s oil sector.
Iran threatened to gradually abandon the pact if the other signatories did not guarantee the economic advantages set out in the agreement.