Politics

UN nuclear watchdog passes resolution criticising Iran

By AFP

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Iran's Permanent Representative to the UN Kazem Gharib Abadi is seen giving a press conference after an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors' meeting in Vienna on July 10th, 2019. [Alex Halada/AFP]

The board of governors at the UN's nuclear watchdog passed a resolution critical of Iran on Friday (June 19th), the first of its kind since 2012, as tension mounts over Tehran's nuclear programme.

The resolution urges Tehran to provide inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) with access to two sites in Iran in order to clarify whether undeclared nuclear activity took place there in the early 2000s.

It "calls on Iran to fully co-operate with the Agency and satisfy the Agency's requests without any further delay, including by providing prompt access to the locations specified by the Agency".

Iran has been blocking access to the sites for months, prompting a growing diplomatic row.

The resolution was carried by 25 votes in favour versus two against, with seven abstentions: South Africa, India, Pakistan, Thailand, Mongolia, Azerbaijan and Niger.

Russia and China, both of which had spoken out against the prospect of a resolution earlier this week, voted against.

The resolution was put forward by France, Germany and Britain, and supported by the US -- though the US ambassador to the UN in Vienna had said "the text could be strengthened".

'No exceptions'

Even though the sites in question are not thought to be directly relevant to Iran's current nuclear programme, the agency says it needs to know if activities going back almost two decades have been properly declared and all materials accounted for.

Despite the row over the two sites, the IAEA says it still has the access it needs to inspect Iran's declared nuclear facilities, as per its mandate under the landmark deal between Iran and world powers reached in 2015.

However, the latest dispute comes as that deal further unravels, with Iran continuing to breach its limits on nuclear activity in retaliation to the US withdrawing from the accord in 2018 and reimposing sanctions.

Speaking to reporters after the resolution was passed on Friday, IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi said it would be "absolutely unacceptable" if an example were to be set that states can be selective in their implementation of agreements with the UN agency.

"There are no exceptions. There is no Additional Protocol a la carte," Grossi said, referring to the agreement under which the IAEA requested access to the sites.

"I intend to sit down with Iran very soon and to try to solve this as soon as possible," he said, adding that Iran's ambassador to the UN in Vienna Kazem Gharib Abadi would be his first port of call.

Also on Friday, the British Foreign Office said Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab would be meeting French and German counterparts in Berlin to discuss "a diplomatic solution to Iran's destabilising activities in the Middle East."

Iran test-fires new cruise missiles

Meanwhile Thursday, the Iranian navy said it had test-fired a "new generation" of cruise missiles, in the first such military exercises since 19 sailors were killed last month in a friendly fire incident.

The armed forces' website published pictures of the drill in the Gulf of Oman showing missiles being fired from a warship and the back of a truck, and a vessel exploding out at sea.

A statement said both short- and long-range missiles were test-fired.

A video released by state television on its website said some of the missiles were based on "older platforms that have been updated".

The naval exercises come after an "accident" during a similar drill on May 10th, involving a warship being hit by a missile in the same waters.

Nineteen crewmen were killed and 15 injured in the incident, the army said at the time.

Tasnim news agency said the missile was fired by another Iranian warship, in a "friendly fire" incident.

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