Iran removes nuclear watchdog’s cameras after criticism

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Iran has told the global nuclear watchdog it is removing 27 surveillance cameras from its nuclear facilities.

It comes after the International Atomic Energy Agency’s board censured Iran for not answering questions about uranium traces found at three undeclared sites.

IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi said 40 cameras would remain, but that the move posed a “serious challenge”.

Unless it was reversed within three to four weeks, he warned, it would deal a “fatal blow” to the Iran nuclear deal.

Under the 2015 agreement with world powers, Iran agreed to limit its nuclear activities and allow continuous and robust monitoring by the IAEA’s inspectors in return for relief from economic sanctions.

However, it has been close to collapse since the US pulled out unilaterally and reinstated sanctions four years ago and Iran responded by breaching key commitments.

The US now wants to rejoin the deal if Iran returns to compliance, but indirect negotiations in Vienna have stalled since March.

On Wednesday, the IAEA’s 35-nation board of governors approved a resolution that expressed “profound concern that the safeguards issues” related to the undeclared sites “remain outstanding due to insufficient substantive co-operation by Iran”. It also urged the country to “act on an urgent basis to fulfil its legal obligations”.

The US, UK, France and Germany, which drafted the text, said in a joint statement that they welcomed “the overwhelming majority vote” in favour of the resolution, which they said sent “an unambiguous message to Iran”.

But the Iranian foreign ministry denounced it as a “political, unconstructive and incorrect action”.

Spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh tweeted that the Western powers had “put their short-sighted agenda ahead of [the] IAEA’s credibility” and that they were “responsible for the consequences”.

“Iran’s response is firm & proportionate,” he added.

Russia’s mission to the IAEA, which voted against the resolution along with China, tweeted that the US and its European allies did “not get the sensitivity of the moment”, adding: “Clearly #ViennaTalks taught them nothing: pressuring Tehran entails escalation.”

ran has been withholding footage from the IAEA’s cameras for the past year in an attempt to increase pressure on the US at the negotiating table.

On Thursday, Mr Grossi said he had been informed that Iran was removing “basically all” of the cameras and other monitoring equipment that were installed under a 2003 agreement on inspections, implemented months after Iran’s secret nuclear sites were exposed.

“This, of course, poses a serious challenge to our ability to continue working there and to confirm the correctness of Iran’s declaration under the [deal],” he told reporters.

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