Europeans drop plan to condemn Iran at UN nuclear watchdog, opting for diplomacy

After France, Britain and Germany nix resolution, head of IAEA says Iranians agree to a series of meetings with agency to ‘clarify a number of outstanding issues’

Director General of International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, Rafael Mariano Grossi, arrives for the start of the IAEA board of governors meeting at the International Center in Vienna, Austria, March 1, 2021. (Ronald Zak/AP)
Director General of International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, Rafael Mariano Grossi, arrives for the start of the IAEA board of governors meeting at the International Center in Vienna, Austria, March 1, 2021. (Ronald Zak/AP)

VIENNA, Austria (AFP) — European nations will not go ahead with a planned resolution criticizing Iran at this week’s meeting of the UN nuclear watchdog, diplomatic sources said on Thursday.

France, Britain and Germany had planned to introduce a resolution at a meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s board of governors, with the support of the United States, criticizing Iran’s suspension of some International Atomic Energy Agency inspections.

However, diplomats said the resolution, which had not yet been formally submitted, will now not be put forward.

The decision to hold off was taken “to give time to diplomacy,” one diplomatic source said, pointing to “initiatives undertaken by (IAEA Director General Rafael) Grossi” and signs of “good faith” on the Iranian side.

Grossi said that Iran has accepted holding a series of meetings with the UN nuclear watchdog in order to “clarify a number of outstanding issues.”

“We are going to be starting this process… with a technical meeting which will take place in Iran at the beginning of April, which I hope will be followed by other technical or political meetings,” Grossi told reporters at a press conference.

The new process will be aimed at clarifying queries the IAEA has raised about the possible previous presence of nuclear material at undeclared sites.

The latest moves come at a delicate moment for diplomacy on the Iranian nuclear issue, with fragile efforts underway to revive the ailing 2015 deal between Iran and world powers on its nuclear program.

The Iranian Ambassador to the IAEA Kazem Gharib Abadi, tweeted on Thursday that “due to extensive diplomatic consultations” at the IAEA, “a glimpse of hope is looming to prevent unnecessary tension.”

“Wisdom prevails,” he added.

US President Joe Biden has said he is willing to bring the United States back to the landmark 2015 deal, known as the JCPOA. It has been unraveling since Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump pulled the US out of the agreement in 2018.

‘Counterproductive’ steps

Earlier this week, a report in the Iranian Vatan-e-Emrouz newspaper said Tehran had “temporarily suspended the production of uranium metal on the order of the President (Hassan Rouhani).”

The government in Tehran has not disputed the accuracy of the report.

The production of uranium metal goes against a 15-year ban in the JCPOA on “producing or acquiring plutonium or uranium metals or their alloys.”

However, Iran says it has the right to breach this and a series of other constraints on its nuclear activities laid down in the deal in retaliation for the US withdrawal from the accord and subsequent imposition of sanctions.

Rafael Grossi, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, speaks during a press conference shortly after the IAEA Board of Governors meeting at the agency’s headquarters in Vienna, Austria on March 1, 2021. (JOE KLAMAR / AFP)

Iran says uranium metal production is part of its plans to provide advanced fuel for a research reactor in Tehran. But the topic is sensitive because uranium metal can be used as a component in nuclear weapons.

Late last month Iran suspended some IAEA inspections as US sanctions had not yet been lifted, described by Grossi as a “huge loss” for the agency.

However, after two days of talks with Iranian officials in Tehran, a three-month arrangement was agreed under which Iran pledged to keep recordings “of some activities and monitoring equipment” and hand them over to the IAEA as and when US sanctions are lifted.

Iran had threatened to suspend that arrangement in the event of a critical resolution at the IAEA.

European states and the US criticized Iran’s suspension of inspections in their statements to the IAEA’s board this week.

“How does ending such monitoring serve Iran’s goal of re-establishing confidence in its nuclear programs and intentions?” asked US Charge d’Affaires Louis L Bono.

“These steps are counterproductive, and Iran should reverse them,” he added.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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