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The UN nuclear agency slams Iran for banning ‘several’ inspectors from monitoring its programme

BERLIN (AP) — The U.N. nuclear watchdog sharply criticized Iran on Saturday for effectively banning some of its most experienced inspectors from overseeing the country’s disputed program.

The strongly worded statement came amid longstanding tensions between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is charged with monitoring a nuclear program that Western countries have long suspected is aimed at the eventual development of a nuclear weapon. Iran insists the program is peaceful.

Rafael Mariano Grossi, the head of the IAEA, said Iran had revoked the designation of “several experienced inspectors from the Agency,” preventing them from participating in monitoring its program.

“Iran has effectively removed approximately one-third of the core group of the Agency’s most experienced inspectors assigned to Iran,” he said.

Grossi went on to “strongly condemn this disproportionate and unprecedented unilateral measure,” saying it represents “an unnecessary blow to the already strained relationship between the IAEA and Iran.”

Iran’s Foreign Ministry linked the move to what it said was an attempt by the United States and three European countries to misuse the body “for their own political purposes.” He appeared to be referring to Britain, France and Germany, which said Thursday they would maintain sanctions on Iran over its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

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“Iran had previously warned of the consequences of such political abuses, including the attempt to politicize the atmosphere within the agency,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani said.

The Vienna-based IAEA reported earlier this month that Iran has slowed the pace at which it enriches uranium to near weapons-grade levels. That was seen as a sign that Tehran was trying to ease tensions after years of tension between the country and the US

Iran and the US are negotiating a prisoner swap and the release of billions of dollars in Iranian assets frozen in South Korea.

World powers struck a deal with Tehran in 2015 under which the country agreed to limit uranium enrichment to levels necessary for nuclear power in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. UN inspectors were charged with overseeing the program.

Then-President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the US from the agreement in 2018 and reinstated crippling sanctions. Iran began violating the terms a year later. Formal talks in Vienna to try to restart the deal failed in August 2022.

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Iran has long denied ever seeking nuclear weapons and continues to insist its program is for peaceful purposes only, although Grossi has warned that Tehran has enough enriched uranium for “several” nuclear bombs if it chooses to build them.

Tehran would likely take months to build a weapon. The IAEA, the West and other countries say Iran had a secret military nuclear program that it abandoned in 2003.

“Without effective cooperation, trust and confidence will remain elusive,” Grossi said on Saturday. Without these inspectors, he said, the agency will not be able to effectively “provide credible assurances that nuclear material and activities in Iran are for peaceful purposes. ”


Associated Press writer Amir Vahdat in Tehran contributed.

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