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UN atomic watchdog: Hopeful of greater trust with Iran

Rafael Grossi, head of International Atomic Energy Agency, says Tehran’s granting inspectors access to two disputed sites could build cooperation

Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency Rafael Mariano Grossi at the IAEA board of governors meeting at the International Center in Vienna, Austria, September 14, 2020. (Ronald Zak/AP)
Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency Rafael Mariano Grossi at the IAEA board of governors meeting at the International Center in Vienna, Austria, September 14, 2020. (Ronald Zak/AP)

The head of the United Nations’ atomic watchdog agency told board members on Monday he is hopeful Iran’s decision to let inspectors into two disputed sites could lead to a more trusting relationship with Tehran.

Rafael Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, in late August secured an agreement with Iran to inspect the two sites where the country is suspected of having stored or used undeclared nuclear material, and possibly having conducted nuclear-related activities.

The agreement, which came after Grossi personally visited Tehran to meet with Iranian leaders, ended a months-long impasse over the two locations, thought to be from the early 2000s.

Iran had been permitting IAEA inspectors into current nuclear sites agreed upon in the landmark 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, but had argued the other two sites dated from before the deal so there was no reason to grant access.

The IAEA in March identified the two sites as places where Iran may have stored and/or used undeclared nuclear material or undertaken nuclear-related activities without declaring them to international observers.

Grossi told the agency’s board of governors in Vienna that inspectors had already visited one site and would visit the other later this month.

“I welcome the agreement between the agency and Iran, which I hope will reinforce cooperation and enhance mutual trust,” he said, according to a copy of his prepared remarks.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealing what he says is a nuclear weapons development site in Abadeh, Iran, at the Prime Ministers Office, on September 9, 2019. (Screenshot: YouTube)

One of the sites was reported to be in Abadeh, south of Isfahan — a location that in September 2019 was revealed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as the site of an alleged secret nuclear facility.

Netanyahu said at the time that Iran had tried to destroy the site and any evidence it had been used to develop nuclear weapons.

“Today, we’re revealing that yet another secret nuclear site was exposed in the archives that we brought from Tehran. In this site, Iran conducted experiments to develop nuclear weapons,” he said, showing before and after photographs.

The ultimate goal of the 2015 nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, is to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear bomb, which Iran insists it does not want to do.

Since US President Donald Trump pulled the US unilaterally out of the pact in 2018, Iran has steadily been violating restrictions on the amount of uranium it can enrich and the purity it is allowed to enrich to, and other limits.

But one reason the other countries involved — Germany, France, Britain, China and Russia — say that it’s important to maintain the agreement is for the access IAEA inspectors continue to get to Iran’s nuclear facilities.

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