The IAEA verifies and monitors the implementation of the commitments made by Iran under the nuclear agreement concluded in Vienna in 2015 with the major powers.
Talks were launched a year ago in the Austrian capital to try to reintegrate the United States into this pact denounced in 2018 by former US President Donald Trump and bring Iran back to full compliance with its international commitments concerning its nuclear program.
Iran has informed the IAEA of the “withdrawal of 27 cameras” for monitoring nuclear activities, the UN body announced on Thursday, in response to the adoption of a resolution criticizing Tehran.
This measure “naturally poses a serious challenge to our ability to continue to work there”, declared its general manager Rafael Grossi, during a press conference in Vienna.
Washington also expressed concern over Tehran’s “provocations”, with US Foreign Minister Antony Blinken warning of “an aggravated nuclear crisis” and “increased economic and political isolation of Iran”.
Tehran announced on Wednesday that it had disconnected some of the cameras, without specifying the number, just before the vote in the IAEA Board of Governors on a resolution formally calling Iran to order for its lack of cooperation.
In question, the absence of “technically credible” answers from Iran concerning traces of enriched uranium previously found on three sites that Tehran had not declared as having hosted nuclear activities.
Condemning this text presented by the United States, Great Britain, France and Germany, Iran deplored a “political” and “not constructive” gesture.
The adoption of this text “will only weaken the process of cooperation” with the IAEA, warned the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
And the spokesman for diplomacy Saeed Khatibzadeh defended his country’s “peaceful nuclear program”, described as “more transparent in the world”.
In addition to disabling the cameras, Iran has informed the IAEA of the installation of two new cascades of advanced centrifuges on the Natanz site (center), thus significantly strengthening its uranium enrichment capacity.
The IAEA can continue inspections and still has 40 cameras on site, but this measure by Tehran results in “less transparency, more doubts”, explained Mr. Grossi.
He called on Iran to resume dialogue once “the emotion subsided”.
Until now, Iran had been careful to avoid confrontation with the IAEA, but this time the ultra-conservative President Ebrahim Raisi showed his firmness.
– “We will not back down” –
“We will not back down,” he said, according to the official Irna news agency.
If the blockage persists, “in three or four weeks” the IAEA will no longer be able to provide the information necessary for monitoring the Iranian nuclear program, said Mr. Grossi for his part.
According to him, this would “deal a fatal blow” to the 2015 agreement providing for the limitation of Iranian nuclear activities in exchange for an easing of international sanctions.
This pact has been moribund since the withdrawal in 2018 of the United States, which reimposed punitive measures on Tehran.
A year later, Iran began to go back on its commitments, over the months taking unprecedented steps, while denying that it wanted to acquire the atomic bomb.
Talks to revive the deal have stalled since March.
These new developments “will certainly increase the pressure on the negotiations to push for a decision one way or the other”, commented for AFP Eric Brewer, of the American research institute Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI).
In an Iran suffocated by economic sanctions, passers-by interviewed by AFP called on the authorities to “cooperate with the IAEA”.
We must act “so that the problems do not worsen further and that the people live in peace and prosperity”, confided Ebrahim Ahmadpour, 60, in the capital.