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Pompeo slams Iran for detaining UN inspector at nuclear site

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, on July 25, 2018, in Washington, D.C. (Douglas Christian/Zuma Press/TNS)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has called Iran’s treatment of a UN nuclear inspector in late October “an outrageous and unwarranted act of intimidation.”

Pompeo said on November 8 that Tehran “detained” the inspector from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which had reported she was briefly prevented from leaving Iran.

“The United States fully supports the IAEA’s monitoring and verification activities in Iran, and we are alarmed at Iran’s lack of adequate cooperation,” Pompeo said in a statement.

“IAEA inspectors must be allowed to conduct their critical work unimpeded. We call on Iran to immediately resolve all open issues with the IAEA and to afford agency inspectors the privileges and immunities to which they are entitled,” he added.

Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization (AEO) said on November 7 that it had canceled the inspector’s accreditation after an alarm at the entrance to the Natanz uranium enrichment plant raised concerns she could be carrying a “suspect product” on her.

The AEO said she was denied entry to the facility on October 28, but it did not say if anything was found among her possessions when she was searched.

Kazem Gharib Abadi, Iran’s ambassador to the IAEA, told reporters in Vienna that after setting off the alarms, the inspector “sneaked out” to the bathroom while awaiting a more thorough inspection with a device that can detect explosive material.

Upon her return, he said, the alarms did not go off again. He claimed authorities later found contamination in the bathroom and on her empty handbag.

Iran said IAEA officials were present for all the searches. The UN watchdog has not commented on the matter.

Last year, the United States pulled out of a 2015 nuclear deal Tehran signed with six world powers, in which Iran agreed to curb its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.

Since the U.S. withdrawal, Iran has progressively scaled back commitments under the accord.

Britain, China, France, Germany, and Russia have remained in the deal and have attempted to mitigate the damages caused to Iran’s economy by renewed U.S. sanctions.