Western Nations Mull Iran Censure as UN Demands Answers on Uranium

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Western nations are mulling whether to censure Iran over its nuclear program, as a meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the United Nations nuclear watchdog, takes place in Vienna this week. The agency urgently wants Iran to explain the recent discovery of undeclared, highly enriched uranium particles.

Ahead of the weeklong meeting of the IAEA’s 35-nation board of governors, Iran said it would begin cooperating with an investigation into uranium particles found at undeclared sites in the country. Analysts say that may be enough for the board to stave off a Western push for another resolution ordering Iran to cooperate.

Iran’s announcement followed a visit to Tehran last week by IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi, who said at a press conference in Vienna on March 6 that Tehran had made concrete commitments.

“It was the first time I could have a serious conversation with the president of Iran about these things. This has enormous importance,” Grossi said at the press conference.

“It is not [empty] promises. We do have certain agreements which are concrete. … I sense that there is an understanding that we need certain concrete answers from them on certain things. They have been giving us some, as you know, and we, after evaluation, considered that they were not technically credible. And we were in this vicious circle, if you wish. So, my impression is that there is a chance now that we can be moving away from this,” Grossi added.

Monitoring equipment

Grossi said Iran had agreed to allow the reinstallation of monitoring equipment at key nuclear sites. He said the details would be agreed to at a later meeting in Tehran. The equipment was put in place under the 2015 nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) between Iran and six world powers.

The equipment was removed last year as the deal unravelled following then-U.S. President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the JCPOA in 2018.

However, a spokesperson for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran said Tehran had not agreed to put new cameras in Iran's nuclear facilities or allow IAEA inspectors to speak to individuals involved in the country’s nuclear program.

“During the two days that Mr. Grossi was in Iran, the issue of access to individuals was never raised,” spokesperson Behrouz Kamalvandi told the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA).

Enriched uranium

Western nations warn that Iran is getting much closer to being able to make a nuclear bomb. Tehran insists its nuclear activities are for civilian purposes.

Last month, the IAEA said inspectors found uranium particles enriched to 83.7% purity at Iran’s Fordow nuclear plant. Scientists say that while it could have been accidental, the spike is relatively large.

Tehran has downplayed the finding, saying, “It cannot be seen even under a microscope.” Ahead of the IAEA meeting, Nour News, a website closely associated with Iranian leadership, wrote on Twitter, “It will be clear soon that the IAEA surprising report of discovering 84% enriched uranium particles in Iran’s enrichment facilities was an inspector’s error or was a deliberate action to create political atmospheres against Iran on the eve of the meeting.”

Weapons-grade uranium is enriched up to 90%. The IAEA has warned that Iran now has enough uranium to produce several nuclear bombs if it chooses.

CIA Director William Burns said last month there was no evidence that Iran had made a decision to weaponize its enriched uranium. But he said its nuclear program was growing at a “worrisome pace.”


The IAEA also said Iran's stock of uranium enriched to up to 60% had grown by 25.2 kg to 87.5 kg since the last quarterly report.

Behnam Ben Taleblu, an analyst at the Washington-based Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, said it was time for the West to impose more penalties on Iran.

“What we need to do now is to snap back and fully restore sanctions. Particularly those that existed at the U.N. Security Council from 2006 to 2010 that create a multilateral baseline for pressure that have a permanent arms ban on the Islamic Republic, that have a permanent missile testing and transfer prohibition on the Islamic Republic,” Taleblu told VOA.

“From there, in coordination with the American partners, Europe can begin to discuss what a future Iran policy that integrates rather than isolates the nuclear program can look like,” he said.


Meanwhile, Israel has said it will not allow Iran to develop a nuclear bomb.

“Is it permissible for Iran, which openly calls for our destruction, to organize the tools of slaughter for our destruction? Are we forbidden from defending ourselves? We are obviously permitted to do this. And we are obviously doing it,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at a Cabinet meeting on March 5.

Indirect talks between the U.S. and Iran to try to restore the 2015 nuclear deal broke down in September.

Since then, the U.S. and Europe have imposed further sanctions on Tehran for its violent crackdown on anti-government protests and for giving military drones to Russia.