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European powers seek to censure Iran at UN nuclear meeting

Europe
 Iranian flag in Iran’s Bushehr nuclear power plant. on November 10, 2019. [Getty Image]

Britain, France and Germany will seek to censure Iran over its lack of cooperation with the UN nuclear watchdog at its board meeting from Monday despite US opposition, diplomats told AFP.

According to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Tehran is the only non-nuclear weapon state to enrich uranium to 60 percent, while it keeps accumulating large uranium stockpiles.

That is approaching the enrichment levels of 90 per cent needed for atomic weapons. It is also well above the authorised 3.67 per cent used for nuclear power stations.

Iran has always denied wanting to acquire a nuclear weapon, but the rapid expansion of its nuclear programme has no "credible civilian justification", said one diplomat who asked not to be named.

Diplomats told AFP that submitting a motion against Iran at the Vienna meeting was driven by an "urgency to react to the gravity of the situation".

The planned resolution comes after the IAEA board passed the last one of its kind in November 2022.

Even though Iran continued to significantly ramp up its nuclear programme since then, the IAEA's board has refrained from a censure.

At the last board meeting in March, European powers decided to shelve their plans to confront Iran due to a lack of support from Washington.

The United States denies it is hampering European efforts to hold Tehran accountable but fears a censure could aggravate Middle East tensions ahead of presidential elections in November, diplomats say.

'Essential and urgent'

Cooperation between Iran and the IAEA has severely deteriorated in recent years, with the UN nuclear watchdog struggling for assurances that Iran's nuclear programme is peaceful.

Diplomats say maintaining the current policy of inaction amid Iran's escalation is no longer tenable and the US position could change ahead of the vote scheduled for later this week.

In May, IAEA head Rafael Grossi visited Iran in a bid to improve cooperation, calling for "concrete results... soon".

In the meantime, the death of Iran's president Ebrahim Raisi in a helicopter crash last month has put negotiations on hold.

Diplomats, however, suggest Iran is using the accident as an excuse to stall.

The draft resolution obtained by AFP covers all the points of contention.

The confidential draft says it is "essential and urgent" that Tehran provides "technically credible explanations" for the presence of uranium particles found at two undeclared locations in Iran.

Furthermore, Iran has to "reverse its withdrawal of the designations of several experienced Agency inspectors", and "without delay" reconnect the cameras used to monitor nuclear activities.

The draft also notes the "concerns" surrounding "recent public statements made in Iran... regarding its technical capabilities to produce nuclear weapons and possible changes to Iran's nuclear doctrine".

'Wider impasse'

Iran has gradually broken away from its commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal it struck with the United States, China, Russia, France, Germany and the United Kingdom.

The landmark deal provided Iran sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its atomic programme.

But it fell apart after the unilateral withdrawal of the United States under then-president Donald Trump in 2018.

Efforts to revive the deal have so far failed.

"The US has reportedly been hesitant to endorse a resolution because Tehran has previously tended to double down on the very activities that are prompting censure," Naysan Rafati, an Iran analyst at the Crisis Group, told AFP.

But Washington "will also be reluctant to publicly break with its European allies", he added.

"A showdown at the board reflects a wider impasse over Iran's nuclear activity, with little diplomatic activity but increasing concern over a programme that continues to expand in scale under limited international oversight," Rafati said.

Mikhail Ulyanov, Russia's ambassador to the international organisations in Vienna, wrote on X on Sunday that the IAEA board meeting was likely to become a turbulent one.

Ulyanov wrote he hopes an "anti-Iranian resolution" will not be tabled, since it risks "seriously deteriorating the situation".

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