Iranian official calls IAEA inspectors ‘roaches,’ says Tehran should quit NPT
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Iranian official calls IAEA inspectors ‘roaches,’ says Tehran should quit NPT

Head of atomic research institute: 2015 nuclear deal should be renegotiated; Iran should be free to enrich uranium to 90%

Mohammad-Javad Larijani, head of Iran's Institute for Research in Fundamental Sciences. (MEMRI screen capture)
Mohammad-Javad Larijani, head of Iran's Institute for Research in Fundamental Sciences. (MEMRI screen capture)

The head of an Iranian academic institute that conducts nuclear research has called for the Islamic Republic to withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and renegotiate the 2015 nuclear deal, and repeatedly dubbed international nuclear inspectors “cockroaches.”

In an Iranian Channel 2 television interview translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute monitoring group, Mohammad-Javad Larijani, who heads the Institute for Research and Fundamental Sciences, criticized Iran’s membership in the NPT, the international treaty aimed at preventing the spread of nuclear weapons.

“It wouldn’t be a bad idea for us to suspend our commitment in the wake of all this pressure and renegotiate it from the beginning,” Larijani said in the interview broadcast June 12.

Larijani also complained that Iran was being unfairly restricted by the nuclear deal it signed in 2015 with the United States and other world powers, under which Iran is not allowed to highly enrich uranium for fear it intended to use it in nuclear weapons, while other nations had no such restrictions.

Mohammad-Javad Larijani (left), head of Iran’s Institute for Research in Fundamental Sciences. (MEMRI screen capture)

His comments come amid heightened tensions in the region, with the US sending warships and bombers to counter what western intelligence agencies have said were threats from Iran to attack US and allied targets in the Persian Gulf.

However, the comments were made before the attacks Thursday on two oil tankers in the Gulf, which the US and other countries have blamed on Iran. Tehran denies any involvement but the incidents have caused tensions to skyrocket.

In this photo released by official website of the office of the Iranian Presidency, President Hassan Rouhani, right, and Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, Yukiya Amano shake hands for media at the start of their meeting at the Presidency office in Tehran, Iran, Sunday, December 18, 2016. (Iranian Presidency Office/AP)

The crisis is rooted in US President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear accord last year and impose sweeping sanctions on Iran. The Trump administration has criticized the 2015 accord for failing to rein in Tehran’s nuclear and regional ambitions.

In the wake of these steps by the US, Larinjani said Iran should stop cooperating with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN nuclear watchdog: “In my opinion, the cockroaches that we have in this country in the form of IAEA observers and inspectors – it will be insolence if they enter our scientific facilities.”

Under both the NPT and the 2015 nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Iran is obligated to admit nuclear inspectors to ensure its facilities are in compliance with the treaties.

IAEA inspectors at Iran’s nuclear power plant in Natanz on January 20, 2014. (IRNA/AFP Kazem Ghane)

“Let’s not allow (the IAEA inspectors) into Iran,” Larijani said, likening the treaties to a “ball and chain that we tied to our legs with our own hand.” He said despite two treaties, “we have made no international commitment to provide them information. None whatsoever.”

Last week in his regular report, IAEA director general Yukiya Amano for the first time since the signing of the JCPOA did not explicitly report that Iran was implementing its nuclear-related commitments and said that its rate of uranium enrichment was increasing.

Larijani said Iran had the right to unrestricted nuclear research in all fields including laser enrichment, calling the limitations under the treaties “the worst insult to science. We Iranians will not comply with this.”

Although Iran agreed in 2014 to suspend laser enrichment, the technology has since been shown as a possibly “economical” way to “for enriching uranium to weapon-grade levels,” an academic paper published in the Journal of Science & Global Security said.

Larijani also said Iran should not be restricted to low levels of uranium enrichment, saying they sometimes needed 90 percent enriched uranium for some areas of research. That same level of purity is needed for use in nuclear weapons.

An Iranian technician walks through the Uranium Conversion Facility just outside the city of Isfahan, Iran, February 3, 2007. (AP/Vahid Salemi)

The senior official said Iranian institutions have no obligation to provide information since the JCPOA “was torn and trampled on by all those who make false claims and who demand to hold negotiations,” a reference to Trump’s recent comments that he was open to renegotiating the Iran nuclear deal.

Although Iran has officially said it is not pursuing nuclear weapons, its leaders have repeatedly described Israel as a “cancer” that has to be removed and Iranian military leaders have said their goal is “wiping out” the Jewish state.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warns constantly that Iran has never abandoned its ambition to achieve a nuclear weapons capability. Last year, the Mossad spirited a huge haul of documents from what it said was Iran’s nuclear weapons archive, which Netanyahu said proved conclusively that Iran has lied to the world when claiming it has not been seeking to produce nuclear weapons.

Netanyahu said at the UN General Assembly in September that “The reason Iran didn’t destroy its atomic archive and its atomic warehouse is because it hasn’t abandoned its goal to develop nuclear weapons. In fact, it planned to use both of these sites in a few years when the time would be right to break out to the atom bomb.”

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