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UN nuclear watchdog inspects second site Iran had previously barred access to

IAEA says it took environmental samples from location following agreement last month that ended standoff over suspected activity

Illustrative: IAEA inspectors at Iran's nuclear power plant in Natanz on January 20, 2014. (IRNA/AFP Kazem Ghane)
Illustrative: IAEA inspectors at an Iranian nuclear site in Natanz on January 20, 2014. (IRNA/AFP Kazem Ghane)

The UN’s nuclear watchdog said Wednesday it had gained access to a second site in Iran where undeclared nuclear activity may have take place in the early 2000s.

“As part of an agreement with Iran to resolve safeguards implementation issues specified by the IAEA, the agency this week conducted a complementary access at the second location in the country and took environmental samples,” the International Atomic Energy Agency said in a statement.

Late last month Iran announced it would allow the IAEA access to two sites — their exact locations have not been made public — following a visit to Tehran by IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi.

Iran agreed to grant access to both sites on specific dates this month, Reuters reported.

The first site was visited by inspectors in early September.

Iran had denied the agency access to the locations earlier this year, prompting the IAEA’s board of governors to pass a resolution in June urging Iran to comply with its requests.

The row had threatened to put yet more strain on the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which has hung by a thread since the United States pulled out of it in 2018.

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.

One of the sites was reported to be in Abadeh, south of Isfahan — a location that in September 2019 was flagged by 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.

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)

At a press conference on September 14, IAEA director Grossi said analyzing environmental samples collected at the first site would take “not less than a couple of months, two or three months maybe.”

That means the results will only be available after the coming US presidential elections, in which US President Donald Trump is hoping to win a second term in office.

The ultimate goal of the 2015 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 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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