Iran said on Wednesday it has disconnected some International Atomic Energy Agency cameras monitoring its nuclear sites, hours before the UN nuclear watchdog adopted a resolution criticising Tehran for failing to co-operate.
Iran's atomic agency made the decision in anticipation of the censure, drafted after the Vienna-based IAEA raised concerns about traces of enriched uranium at three sites the government had not declared as being used for nuclear activity.
The UN nuclear watchdog formally adopted the censure after it was submitted by Britain, France, Germany and the US, diplomatic sources told AFP.
The move was welcomed by Israel, which said it was a "first and necessary step towards the goal of restoring Iran's compliance with its safeguards obligations".
After the adoption of the resolution, the US, Britain, France and Germany urged Iran "to fulfil its legal obligations, and co-operate with the IAEA".
The foreign ministries of the four nations issued a statement welcoming the IAEA's resolution "responding to Iran's insufficient co-operation with the IAEA on serious and outstanding safeguards issues".
"The overwhelming majority vote at the IAEA board of governors today sends an unambiguous message to Iran that it must meet its safeguards obligations and provide technically credible clarifications on outstanding safeguards issues," they said.
"We urge Iran to heed the call of the international community to fulfil its legal obligations, and co-operate with the IAEA to fully clarify and resolve issues without further delay."
Iran earlier said the cameras it had disconnected had been operating as a "goodwill gesture", outside of its agreement with the IAEA.
"As of today, the relevant authorities have been instructed to cut off the On-Line Enrichment Monitor and the flow meter cameras of the agency," said the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran.
It said Iran's agreement to allow the cameras to run was not "appreciated" by the UN agency but considered an "obligation".
It did not specify how many cameras had been turned off, but said: "More than 80 per cent of the agency's existing cameras are operating according to the safeguard agreement and will continue to operate just as before."
Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesman for the Iranian agency, "monitored the shutdown of two IAEA cameras at a nuclear facility", it said.
"Other measures are being considered and we hope that they will come to their senses and respond to Iran's co-operation with co-operation," Mr Kamalvandi told state TV.
The US State Department said that Iran's reported move, if confirmed, was "extremely regrettable" and "counterproductive" to attempts to revive the 2015 nuclear deal.
Iran signed the deal limiting its nuclear programme in return for sanctions relief, but the agreement has been unstable since then president Donald Trump withdrew the US from it in 2018.
Iran, which denies it is seeking to build a nuclear bomb, has backed away from some of its commitments since 2019.
European capitals have expressed increasing concern over how far Iran has gone in resuming nuclear activity since the US began reimposing sanctions in 2018.
Iran has built up large stockpiles of enriched uranium, some of it enriched to levels far higher than those needed for nuclear power generation.
Its nuclear organisation chief Mohammad Eslami said earlier on Wednesday that "Iran has no hidden or undocumented nuclear activities or undisclosed sites", state news agency Irna reported.
"These fake documents seek to maintain maximum pressure" on Iran, Mr Eslami said.
He was referring to the three sites about which the IAEA is concerned and the crippling economic sanctions reimposed by Washington under Mr Trump.
"This recent move by three European countries and the US by presenting a draft resolution against Iran is a political one," Mr Eslami said.
He said Iran had maintained "maximum co-operation" with the IAEA.
The UN watchdog has said its questions about the three sites were "not clarified" in its meetings with Iranian authorities.
Talks to revive the 2015 nuclear accord started in April 2021, with the aim of bringing the US back in, lifting sanctions and getting Iran to return to the limits it agreed to on its nuclear activities.
But negotiations have stalled in recent months and the EU's top diplomat, Josep Borrell, warned last weekend that the possibility of returning to the accord was "shrinking".
IAEA director general Rafael Grossi on Monday said it would be "a matter of just a few weeks" before Iran could get enough material needed for a nuclear weapon if it continues to develop its programme.