IAEA headquarters
IAEA headquartersiStock

Iran is stifling a United Nations probe of its alleged storage of nuclear equipment and radioactive material in Tehran, diplomats told The Wall Street Journal on Monday.

The diplomats said Iran has refused to provide answers to important questions raised by the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) over allegations, first made public by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu during his speech at the UN General Assembly a year ago, that Iran had established a now-dismantled site in Tehran to store equipment and material used during past nuclear weapons work.

It is the first time Iran seems to have refused to cooperate with the IAEA’s monitoring of its activities since the nuclear deal with world powers, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Iranian officials in New York did not respond to a request for comment. Iran dismissed Netanyahu’s allegations about the site last year.

Iran’s behavior has sparked sharp debate in and around the IAEA, the diplomats told The Wall Street Journal. The agency, they said, had recently told member states it would criticize Iran for not cooperating. But in a report released to member states on Friday, the agency made only a vague reference to the issue.

In Friday’s report, the IAEA did note that Iran has gone further in breaching its nuclear deal with world powers, increasing its stock of enriched uranium and refining it to a higher purity than allowed.

The UN’s nuclear watchdog said in July that Iran had exceeded both its 202.8-kg limit on enriched uranium stock and its 3.67% cap on the fissile purity to which Tehran is allowed to refine uranium.

Almost two months after it overshot those limits, Iran has accumulated 241.6 kg of enriched uranium and is enriching up to 4.5%, the quarterly IAEA report to member states showed.

US President Donald Trump withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal last May. He later imposed two rounds of sanctions on Iran, the latest of which went into effect in November of 2018.

Iran, in turn, has scaled back its compliance with the 2015 deal.

The European signatories have vowed to help Iran evade the economic sanctions imposed by the US, shielding companies doing business with the rogue state in an effort to preserve the Iran nuclear deal.

The diplomats cautioned that the radioactive material at the site in question is almost certainly not useful to Iran for amassing fuel for a nuclear weapon. They added it was likely left over from work Iran did years ago, which Western officials say was aimed at learning how to build a nuclear weapon. Iran says its nuclear program has always been for peaceful purposes.

Nonetheless, the secret establishment of the site and the storage of radioactive material there was likely a breach of Iran’s international so-called safeguards commitments to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and material, a key pillar of the global nonproliferation system, noted The Wall Street Journal.

An IAEA spokesman said details of the agency’s work are confidential.

“A rigorous technical and legal process is followed and any suggestion of internal differences...is strongly denied,” the spokesman said.