Iran’s nuclear chief admits removal of damaged IAEA cameras

An IAEA report found one surveillance camera was destroyed and another severely damaged

Mohammad Eslami, the head of Iran’s nuclear programme. AFP
Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

Iran acknowledged on Wednesday that it had removed several surveillance cameras installed by UN nuclear inspectors at a centrifuge assembly site that was mysteriously attack this year.

The chief of the country’s nuclear programme, Mohammad Eslami, tried to portray the removal of cameras as Tehran’s response to world powers reneging on their commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal.

“The parties did not implement their commitments so there was no necessity for the cameras’ existence,” Mr Eslami said after a meeting with politicians.

His comments were apparently aimed at his domestic audience under the country’s new hard-line President, Ebrahim Raisi.

Days earlier, a confidential International Atomic Energy Agency report revealed the nuclear watchdog found one surveillance camera was destroyed and another severely damaged after their removal from the centrifuge plant in Karaj, about 40 kilometres north-west of Tehran.

In June, Iran accused Israel of a sabotage attack on the site, which makes parts for machines used to enrich uranium. Without disclosing details of the assault, Iranian authorities acknowledged the strike had damaged the building.

Mr Eslami on Wednesday said the cameras were damaged during recent “terrorist operations", without elaborating.

The attack on Karaj was just the latest in a series of assaults against Iran’s nuclear programme, which have heightened regional hostilities in recent months as world powers try to salvage the nuclear deal.

Israel is widely believed to have carried out the sabotage, although it has not claimed responsibility.

Tension over IAEA cameras at Iran’s sensitive nuclear sites eased this week, when Iran agreed to let inspectors install new memory cards into surveillance cameras to continue filming.

Tehran holds all recordings at its sites as negotiations over the US and Iran returning to the landmark nuclear deal remain stalled in Vienna.

As Tehran tries to increase pressure on the West to grant sanctions relief, the country is now enriching small amounts of uranium to levels closer to weapons-grade purity as its stockpile continues to grow.

Tehran maintains its nuclear programme is peaceful, and Mr Eslami on Wednesday hit back against those who accuse Iran of covertly trying to make a nuclear bomb.

“What Iran has gained in the nuclear field is based on domestic research and development, and nobody can stop this,” he said, adding that he will travel to Vienna next week for a meeting with the IAEA.

“We should not allow ourselves to be accused of secrecy by the world.”

Iran’s envoy to the IAEA, Kazem Gharibabadi, was also critical of the nuclear watchdog.

The IAEA is not fulfilling “its duties and responsibilities with regard to the terrorist sabotage of peaceful facilities of its members", Mr Gharibabadi said.

"As long as the agency does not address the controversies, problems will continue," he said.

Updated: September 15, 2021, 9:45 PM