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UN nuclear watchdog mulls censure of Iran

Iran’s recent decision to limit inspections by the UN’s nuclear watchdog will be at the heart of a meeting of its board of governors on Monday, with some members mulling a formal rebuke to Tehran.

Western countries will be trying to find a way of censuring Iran without jeopardizing fragile efforts to revive the 2015 deal between Tehran and major powers on its nuclear program.

The possibility of a resolution criticizing Iran being passed at the board attracts sharp diplomatic comment in the run-up to the meeting.

“The Europeans have started a wrong move by supporting the US in the board of governors,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif listens during the talks in Moscow, Russia, January 26, 2021. (Russian Foreign Ministry Press Service via AP)

“We think this move will lead to the situation becoming disorganized,” he says, according to the official Irna agency.

While President Joe Biden has said he is willing to bring the United States back to the 2015 deal, on Sunday Iran said the time was “not suitable” to hold an informal meeting with the US and the remaining parties to the accord — France, Germany, Britain, China and Russia.

Diplomatic sources say that no decision has yet been taken by European states on whether or not to put forward a resolution as Iran will only be discussed later in the week at the meeting, being held via videoconference.

Russia has made clear its opposition to the prospect of a resolution criticizing Iran.

Russian ambassador Mikhail Ulyanov tweets that such a move would be an “unfortunate miscalculation.”

Earlier he had said that “the common responsibility of all 35 Governors is to ensure that the debates (even heated) do not negatively affect diplomatic efforts aimed at full restoration of #JCPOA,” using the formal name for the 2015 deal.

Iran’ Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (L) meets with the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Grossi (R), in Tehran on February 21, 2021 (AFP)

Russia’s deputy foreign minister also blasted Washington for US strikes on Iran-backed militias in eastern Syria last week, saying the move threatened to scupper talks.

“There is no doubt that influential forces in Washington have taken steps in order to derail this meeting,” Sergei Ryabkov was quoted by Russian state news agency TASS as saying.

The JCPOA was sent into disarray when former US President Donald Trump dramatically withdrew from it in 2018 and went on to impose swingeing economic sanctions on Iran.

“We are running against time,” Ulyanov said.

Zarif said that Iran hoped “that reason will prevail” at this week’s meeting.

“If it does not we do have solutions,” he said, without specifying what these were.

In a document circulated to IAEA member states ahead of this week’s meeting, the Iranian mission to the organization says a critical resolution would be “counterproductive and destructive.”

The document also says the introduction of such a resolution would mark the “end” of the agreement reached with the IAEA last month to mitigate the impact of reduced inspections.

Under that temporary three-month arrangement, Iran has pledged to keep recordings “of some activities and monitoring equipment” and hand them over to the IAEA when US sanctions are lifted.

If a resolution censuring Iran is passed, it would be the first such resolution since June, which was itself the first in eight years

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