E3 ready to censure Iran for restricting UN access to nuclear plants

Fears the move by France, Germany and the UK could jeopardise revival of 2015 accord

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The European signatories to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran are likely to put down a resolution condemning Tehran’s decision to restrict the UN atomic watchdog’s ability to inspect its nuclear sites.

The resolution is expected to be proposed by France, Germany and the UK at a meeting later this week of the International Atomic Energy Agency and will be backed by the US, AFP reported.

Iran suspended some inspections last month because the administration of US President Joe Biden has refused to lift sanctions imposed by his predecessor Donald Trump.

A last-minute interim agreement between Tehran and the IAEA is supposed to mitigate the impact.

But Iran has said the introduction of the E3's resolution would lead it to abandon the temporary deal.

The IAEA appealed for its access to the nuclear facilities not to be used as a bargaining chip.

It came as the EU said diplomacy needed to be given time after Iran rejected an invitation for informal talks with the US and European powers over reviving the 2015 nuclear deal.

Peter Stano, an EU foreign policy spokesman, said the aim remained ensuring the full implementation of the 2015 nuclear accord, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

He said the EU’s foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell, as co-ordinator of the JCPoA, was ready to convene all signatories of the deal for consultations “when the time is right”.

“Diplomacy needs to be given time and space, and this is what we are engaged in,” said Mr Stano.

A UK Government spokesman said: "Our priority is to work with the parties of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and the new US administration to find a diplomatic way forward that realises the benefits of the deal.

"It is unfortunate that Iran has declined an informal JCPoA meeting this week with the US, and we are consulting partners on next steps.”

On Sunday, Iran ruled out a meeting with all the JCPoA’s signatories, citing “recent actions and statements” by the US, Britain, France and Germany.

Iran’s recent repeated breaches of the JCPoA, which have seen it take another step towards being able to develop a nuclear weapon, have been condemned.

"The inspection work of the IAEA must be preserved … (it) should not be put in the middle of a negotiating table as a bargaining chip," said Rafael Grossi, the IAEA’s director general.

Mr Grossi refused to be drawn on the utility of the critical resolution by the three European powers.

"My appeal to all is to have constructive discussions and to preserve the work of the agency," he said.

The 2015 accord has been close to collapse since Mr Trump withdrew the US in 2018 and reimposed sanctions as part of a "maximum pressure" campaign against Tehran.

"Considering the recent positions and actions of the United States and the three European countries, Iran does not consider the time suitable to hold the informal meeting proposed by the European co-ordinator", Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said.

He said there had still been "no change in the US positions and behaviour".