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Iran warns against UN nuclear watchdog resolution to access sites

Iranian Foreign Affairs Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif answers journalists' questions during a June 27, 2017 press conference at the ministry of foreign affairs in Berlin, Germany. (Wolfgang Kumm/DPA/Abaca Press/TNS)

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

Iran has criticized a plan to put forward a resolution at a meeting of the UN’s nuclear watchdog urging the country to allow inspectors access to two disputed sites.

European states are expected to submit the resolution at the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) board of governors meeting in Vienna this week.

During a visit to Moscow on June 16, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said his country “will not allow” the IAEA to become “a tool for destroying” the landmark 2015 nuclear agreement signed between Iran and world powers, according to state news agency IRNA.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Musavi said Iran would respond “adequately” if the UN agency does not reach a “constructive decision.” He did not elaborate.

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The United States pulled out of the Iran nuclear agreement in May 2018 and reimposed crippling sanctions that have battered the Iranian economy.

In response, Tehran has been progressively breaking the restrictions laid down in the agreement, saying that it can reverse them if the remaining parties to the deal — Britain, France, Germany, China, and Russia — comply with the deal. U.S. sanctions make it difficult for other parties to abide by their commitments.

Iran has been open about the violations and continues to allow IAEA inspectors access to certain facilities to monitor their operations.

However, Tehran has refused for more than four months to provide access to two sites where nuclear activity may have occurred in the past.

The two locations are not thought to be directly relevant to Iran’s current nuclear program, but the IAEA wants to know whether activities going back almost two decades have been properly declared and all materials accounted for.

U.S. intelligence agencies and the IAEA believe Iran had a secret, coordinated nuclear weapons program that it halted in 2003.

In 2018, Israel revealed what it said was evidence that Iran had pursued nuclear weapons nearly two decades ago. Much of the intelligence gathered from a Mossad operation in Iran confirmed what was already known.

In a statement on June 16, Iran’s ambassador to the IAEA, Kazem Gharib Abadi, claimed that the agency’s access requests were based on allegations from Israel, Iran’s archenemy.

Additional information provided by the IAEA in support of its requests “were merely some commercial satellite imageries that contained no convincing underlying reason” to provide access, Gharib Abadi added.

Speaking at a joint press conference with Zarif, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow would stand by Tehran, while referring to “developments taking place right now in Vienna.”

Lavrov also criticized the United States for wanting to extend the UN arms embargo against Iran that is set to expire in October.