Iranian nuclear chief admits to removing damaged IAEA surveillance cameras

TEHRAN (AP) – Iran admitted on Wednesday that it removed several surveillance cameras installed by United Nations nuclear inspectors at a centrifuge assembly site that was the subject of a mysterious attack earlier this year.

The country’s nuclear program chief Mohammad Eslami has sought to present the removal of the cameras as Tehran’s response to world powers failing to meet their commitments under the 2015 tattered nuclear deal.

“The parties did not implement their commitments, so there was no need for the cameras to exist,” Eslami said after a meeting with lawmakers – comments apparently directed at his own domestic audience under the new intransigent president of the country, Ebrahim Raisi.

Eslami’s comments come days after a confidential report from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) which revealed that the nuclear watchdog found one surveillance camera destroyed and a second severely damaged after they were removed from the Centrifuge manufacturing site in Karaj, a town about 40 kilometers (25 miles) northwest of Tehran.

In June, Iran accused Israel of staging a sabotage attack on the site, which manufactures components for machines used to enrich uranium. Without disclosing the details of the assault, Iranian authorities admitted that the strike damaged the building.

Responding to swirling questions about the agency’s broken surveillance cameras, Eslami said on Wednesday that they were damaged in recent “terrorist operations”, without giving further details.

The attack on Karaj was just the latest in a series of alleged attacks on Iran’s nuclear program that have escalated regional hostilities in recent months as world powers try to save the now collapsed nuclear deal. Israel is widely believed to have carried out the sabotage, although it has not claimed responsibility for it.

Tensions eased slightly when IAEA surveillance cameras were challenged at Iran’s sensitive nuclear sites earlier this week, when Iran conditionally agreed to allow international inspectors to install new ones. memory cards in the surveillance cameras of its atomic installations to continue filming. This was conditional on the progress of talks on the 2015 nuclear deal.

Tehran holds all the records on its sites as negotiations over the return of the United States and Iran to the historic deal remain at a standstill in Vienna. As Tehran tries to step up pressure on the West to grant sanctions relief, the country is now enriching uranium to its levels closest to military purity as its stocks continue to grow. It has quadrupled its stockpile of 60% enriched uranium, to around 10 kilograms, since May, the IAEA said.

“What Iran has won in the nuclear field is based on national research and development, and no one can stop that,” Eslami said, adding that he will travel to Vienna next week for a meeting with the ‘IAEA. “We must not allow ourselves to be accused of secrecy by the world. “

In a similar statement to Iran’s domestic audience, the country’s envoy to the IAEA Kazem Gharibabadi also took a harsh tone against the nuclear watchdog.

The IAEA is not fulfilling “its duties and responsibilities regarding the terrorist sabotage of the peaceful facilities of its members,” Gharibabadi said, warning that “until the agency settles the controversies, the problems will persist.”

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Defense Minister Benny Gantz speak in the Knesset on September 2, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi / Flash90)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said on Sunday that world powers must not allow Iran to continue dragging out negotiations without setting clear deadlines and red lines.

“I hereby call on the world powers not to fall into the trap of the Iranians, which will lead to further concessions,” he said. “Investigate the [nuclear] sites must not be abandoned, and the most important message that must be sent is that a time must be fixed. They are dragging on, but a clear and precise deadline must be set which says “so far”.

Meanwhile, Defense Minister Benny Gantz has said he is ready to accept a scenario in which the United States negotiates a new nuclear deal with Iran, in a rare comment from a senior government official not not immediately rejecting such a multilateral agreement.

“The current American approach of putting Iran’s nuclear program back in a box, I would accept it,” Gantz Recount Foreign Policy in an interview published Tuesday, using rhetoric used by the Biden administration to describe the purpose of the 2015 nuclear deal.

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