UN nuclear agency vote to censure Iran 'hasty and unwise', Tehran says

IAEA board criticises Iran for a lack of co-operation over inspections of its nuclear sites

The International Atomic Energy Agency's board of governors voted to censure Iran over its lack of co-operation with the agency. AFP
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The International Atomic Energy Agency's board of governors on Wednesday passed a resolution criticising Iran for its lack of co-operation, prompting condemnation from Tehran.

The IAEA's 35-member board called on Iran to improve its co-operation with the agency and to reverse a recent decision to bar inspectors from its nuclear facilities.

It was the UN nuclear watchdog's first resolution censuring Iran since November 2022 and comes amid heightening tension between western countries and Tehran over its nuclear activities.

Iran's mission to the UN said the decision was “hasty and unwise” and warned it would have negative consequences on diplomatic efforts and co-operation with the agency, state news agency Irna reported.

The motion was brought by the UK, France and Germany and was opposed by China and Russia. The resolution was passed by 20 votes in favour, including the US which was initially reluctant to stoke regional tension, diplomats told AFP. Twelve countries abstained from the vote.

Earlier on Wednesday, Iran's acting Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri Kani said the IAEA was being exploited by certain member states to mount pressure on Tehran.

“The non-constructive approach of some member countries in exploiting the agency’s capacity in pursuit of their political goals will definitely harm the identity of the agency,” he said.

Before the vote, Iran handed a note to the agency urging it to assess Iranian nuclear activity with “impartiality”.

The resolution submitted by the European powers, known as the E3, presses Iran to explain uranium traces found at undeclared sites.

The new text calls on Iran to co-operate without delay, including allowing the IAEA to take samples if the agency needs them.

It also addresses problems that have arisen more recently, such as Iran's barring of many of the IAEA's senior uranium-enrichment experts on the inspection team.

“Much of Iran’s nuclear programme is unprecedented for a state without a nuclear weapons programme,” the E3 said on Monday.

The US and several European countries accuse Iran of seeking to develop a nuclear weapon. Tehran has repeatedly denied the claim.

Last week, the UN watchdog warned that Iran could already possess more than three times the amount of highly enriched uranium required to build a weapon. In April, it said the country could be months or weeks away from constructing the bomb.

Although symbolic, the censure is aimed at increasing diplomatic pressure on Iran. Similar resolutions in the past have instead led to further diplomatic impasse and restrictions.

After the IAEA censure in 2022, Iran disconnected the agency's surveillance cameras monitoring its nuclear sites.

“We hope Iran takes this opportunity to resolve these outstanding matters so that no further Board action is necessary,” the E3 said. The nuclear agency has the option to refer the matter to the UN Security Council.

Tehran increased its nuclear activities after former US president Donald Trump pulled out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, widely known as the Iran nuclear deal.

Negotiations resumed in 2021 to revive the deal but talks have stalled over disagreements and increasing tension between Washington and Tehran.

Updated: June 06, 2024, 8:29 AM