UN nuclear watchdog warns of breakdown in monitoring Iran

IAEA chief Grossi's comments come as Iran and the US work to get back to nuclear negotiations

IAEA director general Rafael Grossi. Photo: Reuters
Powered by automated translation

The International Atomic Energy Agency has given a warning that the UN monitoring programme in Iran is no longer fully “intact”, after Tehran refused requests to repair cameras at an important site.

The watchdog's director general, Rafael Grossi, said he had faced roadblocks in his attempts to initiate communication with Iran's new hardline government.

“I have never spoken to the new foreign minister, I hope to be able to have the opportunity to meet him soon because it’s very important … so when there is a problem, when there is a misunderstanding when there is a disagreement, we can talk about it,” Mr Grossi said in an NBC News interview.

Mr Grossi's comments come as Washington and Tehran work towards returning to the negotiating table over Iran's nuclear deal, known as the JCPOA. Iran's foreign minister said in an interview on Saturday that nuclear talks would resume “soon”.

Tehran has indicated that it will continue talks but has on numerous occasions called on the US to lift sanctions crippling Iran's economy, as a show of goodwill. Meanwhile, the Biden administration has said that if talks don't come to fruition, officials would look at a possible “Plan B".

Despite the concerns over the IAEA's inability to properly monitor Iran's sites, Mr Grossi said there is “no indication” that Iran is currently racing for a bomb. He did, however, point to North Korea as an example of what could happen should Iran continue denying inspectors proper access.

Mr Grossi said that while Iran has allowed the IAEA access to most cameras, to service them with new batteries and memory cards, there had been one exception — a complex in the Tehran suburbs that makes centrifuge parts and was damaged in June in what Iran says was an act of sabotage by Israel.

“It hasn’t paralysed what we are doing there, but damage that has been done, with a potential of us not being able to reconstruct the picture, the jigsaw puzzle,” Mr Grossi said.

“If and when the JCPOA will be restarted, I know that for the JCPOA partners to go back to an agreement, they will have to know where they are putting their feet.”

Iran has cited its continuing investigation into the attack in refusing the IAEA access to the site, Mr Grossi said.

Without full access to all the sites, Mr Grossi said, the verification programme is “no longer intact".

Updated: October 24, 2021, 5:57 AM