US says it’ll amp up pressure on Iran if it does not start cooperating with IAEA

As UN nuclear watchdog laments lack of progress with Tehran, American envoy warns an ‘extraordinary session’ may be needed before year’s end

General view of the board of governors meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, at the International Center in Vienna, Austria, August 1, 2019. (Ronald Zak/AP)
File: General view of the board of governors meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, at the International Center in Vienna, Austria, August 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak)

The US warned Thursday it could raise the stakes in international pressure on Iran if the Islamic Republic continues to hinder efforts by the UN nuclear watchdog to monitor its nuclear program.

Addressing the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Board of Governors Meeting, US Chargé d’Affaires in Vienna Louis Bono said that “If Iran’s non-cooperation is not immediately remedied… the Board will have no choice but to reconvene in extraordinary session before the end of this year in order to address the crisis.”

On Wednesday the IAEA said there had been “no progress” in talks with Tehran on disputes over the monitoring of Iran’s atomic program, just days before talks restart on reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

Rafael Grossi, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), told a quarterly meeting of the agency’s board that talks he held in Tehran on Tuesday were “inconclusive,” despite being “constructive.”

Grossi had sought to tackle constraints put on IAEA inspections earlier this year, outstanding questions over the presence of undeclared nuclear material at sites in Iran, and the treatment of IAEA staff in the country.

Bono said Iran must immediately provide “credible and verifiable explanations” on the materials.

He lamented that “Iran has still not provided the necessary cooperation, even after extensive attempts by the Director-General to develop a constructive relationship with Iran’s new leadership.”

And he said the US was “deeply disappointed that Iran refused to take the opportunity presented by [Grossi’s] visit to make progress on the long list of urgent outstanding issues before the Agency.”

Grossi told reporters Wednesday that, “in terms of the substance… we were not able to make progress.”

Behrouz Kamalvandi, the spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, told Iranian television his team “tried until the last moment” but there is still work to be done.

Among other officials in Tehran, Grossi met Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian.

Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency Rafael Grossi (left) meets with Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian at the foreign ministry headquarters in the capital Tehran, on November 23, 2021. (Atta Kenare/AFP)

Amir-Abdollahian put a positive gloss on the talks, telling the official IRNA agency on Wednesday that a “common declaration” had been reached which would be published “as soon as possible.”

Grossi’s visit came ahead of the scheduled resumption on Monday of negotiations between Tehran and world powers aimed at reviving the 2015 deal that gave Iran sanctions relief in return for curbs on its nuclear program.

The United States said Iran’s failure to cooperate “is a bad sign about their seriousness in a successful conclusion to our negotiations.”

The remaining members of the accord — France, Germany, the United Kingdom, China, Russia and Iran — will attend with the US taking part indirectly.

The 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) has been gradually disintegrating since former US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the deal in 2018.

In this file photo, taken on September 20, 2021, Rafael Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), attends the IAEA General Conference, an annual meeting of all the IAEA member states, at the agency’s headquarters in Vienna, Austria. (Joe Klamar/AFP)

The following year, Iran retaliated by starting to move away from its commitments under the deal, also known as the JCPOA.

The US negotiator for the JCPOA talks, Rob Malley, warned that Washington would not “sit idly” if Iran delayed progress at the talks.

“If [Iran] continues to do what it appears to be doing now, which is to drag its feet at the nuclear diplomatic table and accelerate its pace when it comes to its nuclear program… we’ll have to respond accordingly,” Malley told US broadcaster NPR.

One of the steps away from the deal came earlier this year when Iran began restricting some IAEA inspections activity.

Iran and the agency currently have a temporary agreement that gives the IAEA access to monitoring equipment at Iran’s nuclear facilities.

However, the agency has warned that the agreement is not a durable solution and Grossi said he was “close to… the point where I would not be able to guarantee continuity of knowledge” of Iran’s nuclear program if it continued.

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