UN: Iran not providing ‘credible’ answers on nuclear material at undeclared sites

IAEA chief Grossi says watchdog remains ready to engage with Tehran on disputed issues to determine if its nuclear research really is for peaceful purposes

Rafael Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, attends the quarterly IAEA Board of Governors meeting at the agency headquarters in Vienna, Austria, June 6, 2022. (JOE KLAMAR / AFP)
Rafael Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, attends the quarterly IAEA Board of Governors meeting at the agency headquarters in Vienna, Austria, June 6, 2022. (JOE KLAMAR / AFP)

International Atomic Energy Agency chief Rafael Grossi on Monday said Iran has still not provided satisfactory answers over the presence of uranium at three facilities.

“Iran has not provided explanations that are technically credible in relation to the agency’s findings at three undeclared locations in Iran,” Grossi said Monday, addressing a quarterly meeting of the IAEA Board of Governors in Vienna.

“Nor has Iran informed the agency of the current location, or locations, of the nuclear material and/or of the equipment contaminated with nuclear material, that was moved from Turquzabad in 2018,” he said.

Grossi noted that in order for the IAEA “to be in a position to provide assurance that Iran’s nuclear program is exclusively peaceful, the agency remains ready to re-engage without delay with Iran to resolve these matters.”

In his remarks, which largely focused on Ukraine, Grossi did not mention his recent trip to Israel and his meetings with Israeli officials. On Thursday, Grossi touched down in Tel Aviv for a snap visit, meeting with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett before returning to Vienna.

Bennett warned Grossi that Iran is pushing ahead on developing a nuclear weapon while misleading the world with “false information and lies” to conceal its work. The IAEA chief tweeted after their meeting that he and Bennett had “important exchanges on topical issues.”

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (R) meets with Rafael Grossi, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, on June 3, 2022. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Major European countries and the United States are expected to seek to censure Iran at the IAEA meeting amid stalled talks to revive the 2015 nuclear deal.

The resolution drafted by the United States, Britain, France and Germany is a sign of their growing impatience as diplomats warn the window to save the landmark deal is closing. If the resolution urging Iran to “cooperate fully” with the IAEA is adopted, it will be the first motion censuring Tehran since June 2020.

Talks to revive the accord started in April 2021 with the aim of bringing the US back into the deal, lifting sanctions, and getting Iran to scale back its stepped-up nuclear program.

The 2015 landmark deal — promising Tehran sanctions relief in exchange for curbs in its nuclear program — started to fall apart in 2018 when then-US president Donald Trump withdrew from it.

Talks to revive the agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, have stalled in recent months. The coordinator of the talks, the EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell, warned in a tweet this weekend that the possibility of returning to the accord was “shrinking.”

“But we still can do it with an extra effort,” he said.

At Monday’s meeting, Grossi also said the IAEA is working on sending an international team of experts to visit the nuclear power-plant in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, which is now under control of Russia’s invasion force, Reuters reported.

A Russian serviceman stands guard in an area of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station in territory under Russian military control, southeastern Ukraine, May 1, 2022. (AP Photo)

Grossi said he intends to lead such a mission if one can be arranged, and warned that data on nuclear material is not being passed on to the IAEA as it should in the wake of Russia seizing the site in the southeast of the country.

“We are developing the modalities to dispatch such a mission; other considerations should not prevent this essential international mission from taking place,” he said, according to the report.

The IAEA has for months fretted over the safety situation at Zaporizhzhia, the largest nuclear power-plant in Europe. Workers there are under direction of Russia. Ukraine has noted to the IAEA that it is concerned about the supply of spare parts to Zaporizhzhia.

“I have taken note of the appeal by the Ukrainian government,” Grossi said.

Russian President Volodymyr Zelensky was in Zaporizhzhia region on Sunday, where he received a battle report, thanked troops and met with refugees in what was only his second public visit outside the Kyiv area since the war began.

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