US says revived nuclear deal 'will not absolve' Iran of non-proliferation duties

Criticism of Tehran at meeting of UN atomic agency comes as talks continue on restoring 2015 pact

The US lashed out at Iran at a board of governors' meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency. AFP
Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

The US on Wednesday told Iran that a revived nuclear deal would not let it off the hook over its failure to co-operate with UN inspectors or provide explanations for undeclared atomic activity.

At a governors’ meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency that saw western diplomats walk out when Russia took the microphone, US envoy Louis Bono scolded Iran for obstructing the work of UN inspectors.

Although negotiators say a deal is in sight after long-running talks on limiting Iran’s nuclear activities, Mr Bono said an agreement on that front “does not, cannot and will not absolve Iran” of its wider non-proliferation duties.

“On too many occasions in the past”, the Iranian leadership “has failed to deliver on promises to co-operate”, he said at the meeting in Vienna.

“Iran’s failure to provide required clarifications is seriously affecting the ability of the agency to provide assurance of the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme.”

The IAEA is concerned about three locations where it says Iran has failed to explain the presence of nuclear material and accuses Tehran of harassing its inspectors and winding down surveillance envisaged by the deal with world powers.

But hopes were raised of progress on that issue after IAEA chief Rafael Grossi visited Tehran last weekend and came back with a deal to exchange more information on the sites.

Those discussions are running in parallel to the talks, also in Vienna, on restoring the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the 2015 deal that has gradually lost its potency since the US withdrew in 2018.

The aim of the talks is to bring Iran back in line with limits on its uranium enrichment and use of other sensitive technology, which in 2015 it agreed to observe in exchange for sanctions relief.

Diplomats have described the talks on a revived deal as entering an endgame and moving beyond technical discussions to the moment where political leaders must make a final call.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine threw up a potential obstruction as Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov demanded assurances from Washington that sanctions on Moscow over the war would not impede its bilateral ties with Iran.

However, the US said on Tuesday that Russia remained engaged in the talks and had its own interests in preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

And Mikhail Ulyanov, the Russian delegate in Vienna, sought to play down those concerns on Wednesday by describing claims his team was taking centre stage in discussions as misinformation.

“This is flattering but nonsense. I’d like to see how anyone could dominate negotiations with participation of Iran and the US,” Mr Ulyanov said.

Russia’s intervention in the IAEA governors’ meeting was interrupted when EU delegates led a diplomatic walkout in protest at the invasion of Ukraine.

It followed a similar symbolic protest by diplomats at a human rights summit in Geneva last week, who walked out when Mr Lavrov took the stage.

Representatives of the EU delegation in Vienna said Wednesday’s protest resulted from “unacceptable remarks” and disinformation regarding the war in Ukraine.

That invasion has thrown up separate headaches for the IAEA after Russian troops occupied the site of an operational nuclear power plant and of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

The agency said on Wednesday that Ukraine had informed it of a power loss at Chernobyl but that it saw no “critical impact on safety” because of this.

Updated: March 09, 2022, 2:23 PM