Iran’s president insists country is ‘transparent’ about nuclear activities

After IAEA criticism of Tehran’s growing lack of cooperation, Raisi complains of organization’s ‘non-constructive approach’ to the matter

Iran's new President Ebrahim Raisi speaks during his swearing in ceremony at the Iranian parliament in the capital Tehran, on August 5, 2021. (Atta Kenare/AFP)
Iran's new President Ebrahim Raisi speaks during his swearing in ceremony at the Iranian parliament in the capital Tehran, on August 5, 2021. (Atta Kenare/AFP)

Iran’s new President Ebrahim Raisi said Wednesday that his country was “transparent” about its nuclear activities, a day after the UN atomic watchdog criticized it for lack of cooperation.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran’s serious cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency is a clear example of Iran’s will to be transparent about its nuclear activities,” Raisi told European Council chief Charles Michel by phone, according to an Iranian presidency statement.

“Of course, if the IAEA has a non-constructive approach, it’s unreasonable to expect a constructive response from Iran,” Raisi added.

“What’s more, non-constructive actions of course upset the negotiation process.”

On Tuesday the IAEA said its monitoring at Iranian nuclear sites had been “seriously undermined” by Tehran’s suspension of some inspections since February.

The watchdog said Iran has dramatically increased its production of highly enriched uranium in recent months, while refusing to resume full cooperation with inspectors.

Tehran has quadrupled its stockpile of 60 percent-enriched uranium since May, in open contravention of the 2015 accord with world powers that was meant to contain its nuclear program, the IAEA reported.

The Vienna-based agency warned members that its confidence in properly assessing Iran’s activities — what it called the “continuity of knowledge” — was declining over time and that would continue “unless the situation is immediately rectified by Iran.”

The exchange of words comes as talks remain locked in Vienna on saving the 2015 deal with world powers that gave Iran relief from international sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear program.

Tehran’s strategy of deliberately violating the deal is seen as an attempt to put pressure, particularly on Europe, to provide it with incentives to offset crippling American sanctions re-imposed after the US pullout from the deal.

Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Rafael Mariano Grossi addresses the media during a news conference behind plexiglass shields regarding the agency’s monitoring of Iran’s nuclear energy program at the International Center in Vienna, Austria, June 7, 2021. (AP Photo/Lisa Leutner)

The deal formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action has come undone after former US president Donald Trump’s unilateral decision to withdraw the United States from it in 2018 and impose sanctions. This was followed by Iran walking away from its obligations under the accord and enriching uranium at unprecedented levels.

On Saturday Raisi said that the country is ready to hold talks with world powers to revive the 2015 nuclear deal, but not under Western “pressure.”

“The Westerners and the Americans are after talks together with pressure… What kind of talks is that? I have already announced that we will have talks on our government’s agenda but not with… pressure,” Raisi told state television, according to a Reuters report.

He added that “talks are on the agenda… We are seeking goal-oriented negotiations … so unjust sanctions on the Iranian people are lifted… and their lives can flourish.”

The stalled talks aimed at reviving the agreement with world powers will likely not resume for another two to three months, Tehran’s foreign ministry said on Wednesday.

File: Russia’s envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Mikhail Ulyanov, stands in front of the Grand Hotel Vienna where closed-door nuclear talks with Iran take place, in Vienna, Austria, Wednesday, June 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Lisa Leutner)

Steered by the European Union, the talks began in April and seek to bring the United States back into a deal. Negotiations were adjourned on June 20, two days after ultraconservative Raisi won Iran’s presidential election, and no date has been set for a resumption of dialogue.

Raisi became president in early August, taking over from moderate Hassan Rouhani, the principal architect on the Iranian side of the 2015 agreement.

Israel has repeatedly warned that Iran is seeking nuclear weapons. Former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu openly opposed the 2015 deal, which it said would pave the way to an Iranian nuclear arsenal, and publicly urged Biden to reenter the deal.

Meeting with Biden at the White House last month, current Prime Minister Naftali Bennett warned of the “nightmare” of a radical Islamic regime attaining nuclear weapons, and Biden publicly vowed that the US would “never” allow Iran to attain the bomb.

Israel has “greatly accelerated” preparations for action against Iran’s nuclear program, military chief Aviv Kohavi said in an interview published Monday.

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