EU, US urge Iran to let nuclear watchdog access site allegedly struck by Israel

Iranian ambassador to IAEA denies Tehran blocking UN inspectors from Karaj centrifuge component manufacturing facility in violation of recent agreement

The alleged Karaj centrifuge parts plant near Karaj, Iran, seen in a photo posted online by Google user Edward Majnoonian, in May 2019. (Screenshot/Google Maps)
The alleged Karaj centrifuge parts plant near Karaj, Iran, seen in a photo posted online by Google user Edward Majnoonian, in May 2019. (Screenshot/Google Maps)

VIENNA — The European Union and United States on Monday urged Iran to allow inspectors access to a nuclear site, while Tehran argued the facility was exempt from a recent agreement with the United Nations watchdog.

The Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said on Sunday that it had been denied “indispensable” access to the TESA Karaj centrifuge component manufacturing workshop near Tehran, contrary to a September 12 agreement with Iran.

The facility was the site of a sabotage incident in June, which Iran blamed on Israel. Without disclosing details, Iranian authorities acknowledged that the alleged strike had damaged the building.

Iran’s ambassador to the IAEA Kazem Gharibabadi on Monday rejected the charge on Twitter.

“During the discussions in Tehran and Vienna, Iran indicated that… equipment related to this Complex are not included for servicing,” he wrote, referring to IAEA work on its surveillance equipment.

Sunday’s IAEA statement “isn’t accurate and goes beyond the agreed terms,” he added.

Iran’s envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency Kazem Gharibabadi, leaves the Grand Hotel Vienna, where closed-door nuclear talks took place, in Vienna, Austria, on June 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Florian Schroetter)

At a Vienna meeting of the IAEA board of governors, the EU said that it urged Iran to allow access “without any further delay,” expressing its “deepest concern.”

“This is a worrying development,” the statement said.

The US likewise said it was “deeply troubled” and urged access “without further delay.”

“If Iran fails to do so, we will be closely consulting with other board members in the coming days on an appropriate response,” Louis Bono, the US representative to the IAEA, said without giving further details.

This month’s agreement between the IAEA and Iran came days after the nuclear watchdog had decried a lack of cooperation from Tehran.

Agency inspectors had been allowed to service monitoring and surveillance equipment and to replace storage media at “all necessary locations” except the TESA Karaj workshop, the IAEA said on Sunday.

IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi in his latest report on Iran informed member states that the Islamic republic had granted all other access from September 20–22.

The IAEA’s latest report comes amid stalled EU-brokered negotiations to revive a 2015 landmark agreement scaling back Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.

That deal started to fall apart in 2018 when the United States withdrew from it and reinstated sanctions. Iran in turn again started to ramp up its nuclear activities.

Director General of International Atomic Energy Agency Rafael Mariano Grossi (center) speaks with Deputy Head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Behrouz Kamalvandi (left) upon his arrival at Tehran Imam Khomeini International Airport, Iran, on September 11, 2021. (Atomic Energy Organization of Iran via AP)

Talks began in April in Vienna between Tehran and the remaining five parties to the 2015 deal, aimed at bringing Washington back into the agreement.

But that dialogue has been stalled since June, when ultraconservative Ebrahim Raisi won Iran’s presidential election.

Iran’s foreign minister said on Friday that talks would restart “very soon,” but the US has called for a clear timetable.

“[It’s] important #ViennaTalks resume asap from where we left off on 20 June,” Vienna-based EU Ambassdor Stephan Klement wrote on Twitter on Monday.

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