UN 'categorically rejects' Iranian claim it helped sabotage nuclear site

IAEA head Rafael Grossi will be in Tehran on Monday, Iranian media reports

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The UN watchdog responsible for monitoring Iran's atomic activities has categorically denied an Iranian accusation that it may have been involved in a “sabotage” attempt in June at one of its nuclear sites, where it says Tehran has been building advanced centrifuges.

Iran is still denying International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors access to reinstall surveillance cameras at the Tesa Karaj site despite agreeing on September 12 to the step, which is crucial to reviving talks with the international community, the UN nuclear watchdog said in a separate report.

The monitoring equipment was damaged on June 23 in what Iran’s atomic agency chief Mohammad Eslami said was a “terrorist attack”, initially blamed on Israel.

The IAEA's director general “categorically rejects the idea that agency cameras played a role in assisting any third party to launch an attack on the Tesa Karaj complex”, the agency said in a statement on Wednesday.

Separately, it said that inspectors have continued to be “subjected to excessively invasive physical searches by security officials at nuclear facilities in Iran".

Diplomats said such incidents had also occurred at the Natanz nuclear site.

Under the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, when sanctions were lifted in exchange for monitoring of strict limits on nuclear enrichment and development, the site at Karaj was monitored remotely by cameras installed by the IAEA, and Iran was required to hand over video footage.

The arrangement continued despite the collapse of the deal in 2018 when the US, under Donald Trump, withdrew, but it ended following the June incident.

In September, Iran said it would readmit the IAEA and made an agreement on how the footage from the cameras could be monitored. But Tehran stood accused of moving slowly, with the IAEA warning on September 27 that inspections and access to monitoring equipment were “indispensable in order to maintain continuity of knowledge".

Iranian media have reported that IAEA head Rafael Grossi will be in Tehran on Monday, before a meeting of the watchdog's 35-nation board of governors. Talks on a revived version of the 2015-2018 nuclear deal are scheduled to resume on November 29.

Previous discussions, involving Britain, France, Germany, China, Russia and representatives from the EU and US, paused in June after the Iranian presidential victory of the conservative cleric Ebrahim Raisi.

Mr Raisi, a close ally of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has followed a tough line on talks with the US, saying that Washington must lift sanctions against the country before any compromise can be made on Tehran’s nuclear programme.

Updated: November 18, 2021, 6:39 AM