Diplomats: Iran restricting access to Natanz nuclear plant

Diplomats say Iran has been restricting UN nuclear inspectors’ access to its main uranium enrichment plant following April explosion.

Elad Benari ,

Natanz nuclear facility in Iran
Natanz nuclear facility in Iran
Reuters

Iran has been restricting UN nuclear inspectors’ access to its main uranium enrichment plant at Natanz, diplomats said Thursday, according to Reuters.

Iran has been citing security concerns following an attack on the site attributed to Israel in April, the report said.

The standoff, which one official said has been going on for weeks, is in the course of being resolved, diplomats said, but it has also raised tensions with the West just as indirect talks between Iran and the United States on reviving the Iran nuclear deal have adjourned without a date set for their resumption.

“They are provoking us,” said one Western diplomat who follows the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) closely, adding that inspectors should be able to have full access next week.

Iranian officials were not immediately available for comment. The IAEA declined to comment, citing its general policy of not commenting on inspection matters.

In April, Iran reported an explosion at the Natanz plant which disrupted the electrical distribution grid at the site. An Iranian official blamed "sabotage" for the of the Natanz nuclear facility.

Iran’s top nuclear official condemned the attack on the Natanz plant as an act of “nuclear terrorism”, and hinted that Iran may retaliate. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif blamed Israel for the incident and promised revenge.

The IAEA later said that Iran has installed extra advanced centrifuges at the underground uranium enrichment plant and plans to add even more.

Thursday’s report highlights the tensions between the IAEA and Iran, has gradually scaled back its compliance with the 2015 deal in response to former US President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the agreement in May of 2018.

In February, Iran ended the implementation of the Additional Protocol of its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, which enabled the IAEA to collect data on some of Tehran's activities,

The IAEA struck a three-month deal with Iran that month to have it hold the surveillance images, with Tehran threatening to delete them afterward if no deal had been reached. The deal was extended for another month in mid-May and expired last week.

Last Friday, the IAEA said that Iran has not responded to the agency regarding extending their monitoring agreement and called for an "immediate" answer on the issue. Iran then said it would never hand over images from its nuclear sites to the UN nuclear watchdog due to the fact that the agreement had expired.



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