IAEA warns against intimidation after Iran incident



Newly-sworn in director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency Rafael Grossi speaks during a press conference at the agency's headquarters in Vienna on December 2nd. [Joe Klamar/AFP]

The new head of the UN nuclear watchdog warned Tuesday (December 3rd) against intimidating its inspectors after one of them had their accreditation revoked by Iran over an incident at a nuclear facility.

"We do not want to make something out of proportion but this is a serious matter," said International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) director general Rafael Grossi.

"I stand by my inspectors and (they) have a very important work to do, they should not be intimidated... in any way," he said.

Iran revokes accreditation

Last month, Iran confirmed it had revoked an IAEA inspector's accreditation in October after she allegedly triggered a security check -- used to detect explosives -- at the entrance gate to the Natanz enrichment plant.

She was temporarily prevented from leaving Iran, which the Vienna-based IAEA described as "unacceptable".

The agency has said there was "no indication that would confirm" the allegation that she was carrying explosive material.

Grossi said the IAEA and Iran "have not come to a common understanding" over the facts of what happened in the incident.

The agency's inspectors monitor the implementation of the 2015 deal on Iran's nuclear programme, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

"Countries must not interfere with the work of our inspectors and this is the message we have conveyed to our Iranian colleagues," said Grossi, who began work as director-general on Tuesday.

He said it was important for inspectors to know that from the point of view of the agency, they "will always be backed up and never left alone otherwise the whole edifice of international inspectors would crumble and fall".

Grossi said that Iran's nuclear programme was one of the priorities he would tackle "immediately" and added he may meet Iranian officials who will be in Vienna later this week for a meeting of remaining JCPOA participants.

Unexplained uranium particles

Iran's parliament speaker Ali Larijani on Sunday warned that Tehran would be "forced to seriously reconsider some of its commitments" to the IAEA if the European parties to the JCPOA were to trigger a dispute mechanism that could lead to sanctions.

Grossi said while the IAEA "paid attention" to such statements, "it does not mean that it affects in a direct manner what we are doing" and that no such communication had been received directly from Iran.

Grossi added that such comments were "part of a political discussion between Iran and other countries, not us".

For several months, the IAEA has also been asking Iran to explain the presence of uranium particles at an undeclared site, thought to be a location in the Turquzabad district of Tehran.

Grossi said the IAEA was yet to receive "a satisfactory explanation", adding that while the agency had not set any deadlines, "anybody taking this seriously would never allow it to go on and on".

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