Iran said it was removing two UN nuclear watchdog surveillance cameras from a uranium enrichment facility on Wednesday, as the watchdog’s board prepared to vote a resolution criticizing it for failing to properly explain uranium traces at undeclared facilities.
Tehran’s decision was most likely a warning shot before more drastic action or an early response to the draft resolution, which officials said was likely to pass easily, with only Iran’s ally Russia publicly expressing strong opposition so far.
The United States, France, Britain and Germany have put the draft resolution to the board. It states the board’s “profound concern” that the traces remain unexplained due to Tehran’s lack of cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and calls on Iran to take up an offer of more talks “without delay”.
Iranian state TV said: “So far, the IAEA has not only been ungrateful for Iran’s extensive cooperation but has also considered it as a duty. From today, relevant authorities have ordered that surveillance cameras of the Online Enrichment Monitor (OLEM) be shut down.”
Iran bristles at IAEA board resolutions against it and has warned of retaliation. That could further undermine already stalled talks on rescuing the 2015 nuclear deal.
Since Washington withdrew from that deal in 2018 under then-President Donald Trump and reimposed sanctions against Iran, Tehran has breached many of the deal’s restrictions on its nuclear activities including enrichment. It is enriching to up to 60% purity, close to the roughly 90% of weapons-grade.
Iran says its nuclear designs are wholly peaceful.
“We are not taking this action to escalate a confrontation for political purposes. We seek no such escalation,” a U.S. statement to the board said, adding that Iran removing cameras installed under the deal would be “extremely regrettable and counterproductive to the diplomatic outcome we seek”.
The Vienna-based IAEA declined to comment on Iran’s announcement.