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Iran removal of surveillance cameras could derail nuclear talks: IAEA

#Iran #removal #surveillance #cameras #derail #nuclear #talks #IAEA

The UN nuclear energy watchdog said Thursday that Iran would remove 27 surveillance cameras at its nuclear facilities, warning it could be a “deadly blow” to negotiations to revive a 2015 nuclear deal.

Talks began last April to bring the United States back into this landmark deal after then-President Donald Trump resigned in 2018, leaving it hanging by a thread.

The talks also aim to lift sanctions on Iran and bring it back into line with the nuclear commitments it made to world powers under the deal.

But the always-thorny dialogue has stalled since March — and to heighten tensions, members of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) passed a resolution on Wednesday blasting Iran for its lack of cooperation with the watchdog.

Iran has condemned the allegation as “unconstructive” and announced on Wednesday it had shut down some IAEA cameras monitoring its nuclear facilities.

IAEA chief Rafael Grossi said Thursday his agency had been informed that 27 cameras would be removed, of which about 40 remain.

“Of course, this poses a serious challenge to our ability to continue working there,” Grossi told reporters, urging Iran to get in touch with him “immediately.”

If no solution was found within three to four weeks, the negotiations would be dealt “a fatal blow”.

– ‘Deepening of Isolation’ –

Wednesday’s motion, passed by 30 of the 35 members of the IAEA Board of Governors with only Russia and China voting against, was the first to criticize Iran since June 2020.

The resolution – tabled by the United States, Britain, France and Germany – came after the IAEA said Iran continued to fail to adequately address the earlier discovery of trace amounts of enriched uranium at three sites where Tehran had not declared nuclear activities to explain .

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned Thursday that Iran’s actions will undermine attempts to restore the 2015 deal.

“The only result of such a path will be a deepening of the nuclear crisis and further economic and political isolation of Iran,” Blinken said in a statement.

Britain, France and Germany, in a joint statement, urged Iran to “stop its nuclear escalation and urgently complete the deal currently on the table… while it still can.”

But Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, a ultra-conservative who was elected last year, said the Islamic Republic would not be deterred.

“We will not budge, not even a step from our position,” he was quoted as saying by the state news agency IRNA on Thursday.

Iran has repeatedly denied any ambition to develop a nuclear weapons capability.

She had already reacted angrily to Grossi’s decision to visit her nemesis Israel before the Board of Governors meeting. It has also accused the UN regulator of over-reliance on “fabricated” Israeli intelligence reports.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett hailed Iran’s censorship before leaving for a previously unannounced visit to the United Arab Emirates on Thursday, another Iran critic.

– ‘Extra pressure’ –

Eric Brewer, an analyst at the non-profit Nuclear Threat Initiative, told AFP that Iran’s removal of the cameras “will certainly put additional pressure” on talks to revive the 2015 deal “to reach a decision on one or… force in another way”.

The landmark deal placed limits on Iran’s nuclear activities in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions. But it has been in disarray since Trump unilaterally withdrew and re-imposed crippling sanctions.

In response, Iran began to back down on its own commitments under the deal.

Western capitals have expressed growing concern about how far Iran has come in resuming its nuclear activities since the US began reimposing sanctions.

Iran has accumulated large stockpiles of enriched uranium, some of which are enriched to levels well in excess of those needed for nuclear energy production.

The Foreign Ministry in Tehran said on Wednesday that Iran had installed other advanced uranium enrichment centrifuges in addition to disabling the cameras in response to the IAEA’s no-confidence motion.

The IAEA chief said Monday it was “only a matter of a few weeks” before Iran could obtain enough material for a nuclear weapon if it continued to develop its program.

Several people in a shopping district in Tehran on Thursday said they wished their country was more accessible to the IAEA.

“We urge the authorities to work together more so that the problems don’t get worse,” Ebrahim Ahmadpour, a 60-year-old private sector worker, told AFP.

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