Iran warns UN watchdog of ‘consequences’ over report on undeclared nuclear sites

Tehran vows to ‘respond firmly and appropriately to any unconstructive action’ taken by the IAEA, which says it still has questions regarding presence of nuclear material

Technicians work at the Iranian Arak heavy water reactor, 150 miles southwest of the capital Tehran, on December 23, 2019. (Atomic Energy Organization of Iran via AP)
Technicians work at the Iranian Arak heavy water reactor, 150 miles southwest of the capital Tehran, on December 23, 2019. (Atomic Energy Organization of Iran via AP)

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran warned Wednesday it would respond to any “unconstructive actions” taken by the UN atomic watchdog after the agency reported traces of nuclear material at undeclared sites in the Islamic Republic.

Iran and the UN agency agreed in March on an approach to resolve the issue of the nuclear material found at Marivan, Varamin and Turquzabad — sites that had not been declared by Iran as having hosted nuclear activities.

But in a report on Monday, the International Atomic Energy Agency said it still had questions that were “not clarified” despite long-running efforts to get Iran to explain the presence of the nuclear material.

The IAEA board of governors is to hold a meeting on Monday for which Britain, France, Germany and the US have prepared a draft resolution “calling on Iran to cooperate on the question of undeclared sites,” according to a European diplomatic source.

“We will respond firmly and appropriately to any unconstructive action at the board of governors,” Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said in a statement.

“The responsibility for its consequences falls on the shoulders of those who see the board of governors and the director-general’s report as leverage and a tool of political games against Iran,” he added.

International Atomic Energy Organization Director-General Rafael Mariano Grossi, right, speaks with Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, left, during their meeting in Tehran, March 5, 2022. (AP Photo)

The issue is one of the remaining obstacles to reviving a 2015 deal that gave Iran relief from sanctions in return for guarantees that the Islamic Republic is unable to develop a nuclear weapon. Iran has always insisted that its nuclear program is peaceful. Israel views a nuclear-threshold Iran as an unacceptable threat, as Tehran is avowedly committed to the destruction of the Jewish state.

The agreement, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, was torpedoed in 2018 by the administration of then-US president Donald Trump, which withdrew unilaterally and imposed sanctions on Iran.

In a tweet on Wednesday evening, Khatibzadeh said Israel, the Islamic Republic’s arch foe which strongly opposes the nuclear deal, was the “only nuke-possessor of the MENA region.”

“Time for E3/US to stop pretending to be asleep,” he said, referring to the three European nations and the United States.

“They can pursue diplomacy — or pursue the opposite. We’re ready for both,” he added.

Tehran has condemned the UN watchdog’s report as “not fair and balanced,” saying it “does not reflect the reality of the negotiations between Iran and the IAEA.”

France had called on Iran to respond “promptly” to the IAEA’s requests.

“We are consulting closely with our partners on how to respond to this situation at the next board of governors meeting,” its foreign ministry said.

Khatibzadeh called on “countries such as France to refrain from taking positions and making interventions that would cause the cooperation to deviate from its proper path.”

These statements were aimed at putting “pressure on the Islamic Republic of Iran on the eve of the meetings of the IAEA board of governors,” he added.

The comments came a day after Prime Minister Naftali Bennett published documents he said were taken from Iran and show Iranian intelligence spied on the IAEA to better cover up Tehran’s rogue nuclear activities.

Bennett tweeted a link to the files, which are in Persian, along with a video in which he responded to remarks by Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian dismissing the spying allegations last week as “Zionist lies.”

In a statement containing Bennett’s response to Amir-Abdollahian, the Prime Minister’s Office noted that the IAEA had just published a report on suspected undeclared nuclear material found at three sites and Iran’s refusal to answer questions about the locations. One of the sites in question was identified by Israel, and reportedly later confirmed by IAEA inspectors.

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