AFP: UN atomic watchdog chief Yukiya Amano and Iran’s nuclear envoy waged a fierce war of words here Wednesday in a deepening dispute over Tehran’s decision to bar key nuclear inspectors from the country.
By Simon Morgan
VIENNA (AFP) — UN atomic watchdog chief Yukiya Amano and Iran’s nuclear envoy waged a fierce war of words here Wednesday in a deepening dispute over Tehran’s decision to bar key nuclear inspectors from the country.
At a meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s 35-member board of governors here, the Islamic republic’s ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh accused Amano of bias and kow-towing to western powers in the watchdog’s long-running investigation into Iran’s contested nuclear programme.
Amano has complained that a recent decision by Tehran to revoke the permits of two experienced IAEA inspectors after they allegedly made “false” reports to the agency was “hampering” the watchdog’s work.
But Soltanieh rubbished such suggestions as he recounted to reporters the exchange between him and Amano during the closed-door session of the board.
“It is meaningless to say that if you delete two of the inspectors, everything will collapse or it will be hampered. That is umbelievable,” Soltanieh said.
“This turning a technical matter into a political matter,” the envoy said.
Soltanieh complained that Amano had stood by the inspectors and refused to publicly acknowledge they had made any mistakes.
Furthermore, Amano had gone public about the whole affair by mentioning it in his latest Iran report.
According to Soltanieh, he and the IAEA chief reached a “gentlemen’s agreement” to settle the matter without any further ado if Tehran approved two replacement inspectors suggested by the agency.
“They told me in a meeting, it was a gentlemen’s agremeent — which is why I am very disappointed — that if you agree to these two, the issue will be closed and not need to be discussed any more.
“But they didn’t keep their words. They reported in the report of the director general and they made a fuss about this. They made a noise. Now this has become a political issue. This is not fair,” Soltanieh said.
Tehran’s decision to bar the inspectors has dominated the IAEA board meeting, which began on Monday and is expected to wrap up on Thursday.
Western countries, including France, Britain, Germany and the United States, said Iran was “clearly trying to intimidate” the agency and “influence its ability to report to the board and undermine its ability to effectively implement the safeguards regime in its territory.”
Responding to Soltanieh’s accusations during the closed-door session, Amano countered that “this is not about numbers of inspectors; this is about the country-specific experience of inspectors.”
When such experienced inspectors were “de-designated, this can disrupt the smooth running of the entire team of inspectors dedicated to Iran,” the Japanese diplomat argued in comments relayed to AFP.
“While Iran is entitled to object to the designation of inspectors, this is not without limits,” he said.
Under the terms of Iran’s safeguards agreement with the IAEA, the repeated refusal by a state to accept the designation of agency inspectors could impede inspections and therefore be referred to the board for “appropriate action” to be taken.
“That is why I am raising this issue now: to avoid a situation whereby Iran’s repeated refusal to accept inspector designations does ‘impede’ our inspections,” Amano said.
“The solution is clear: I request Iran not to de-designate any more inspectors with experience of conducting inspections in Iran,” Amano said.
And he insisted: “I am not under any pressure from any country … I need to say that.”