EU, US seek to censure Iran at UN nuclear talks

EU, US seek to censure Iran at UN nuclear talks

Major European countries and the United States are expected to seek to censure Iran when the UN atomic watchdog meets this week amid stalled talks to revive the 2015 nuclear deal.

The Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency meet in Vienna Monday through Friday.

If the resolution urging Iran to cooperate fully with the IAEA is adopted, it will be the first motion censuring Iran since June 2020.

The talks to revive the accord started in April 2021 with the aim of bringing the United States back into the deal, lifting sanctions and getting Iran to scale back its stepped-up nuclear programme.

The 2015 landmark deal - promise of Tehran sanctions relief in exchange for curbs in its nuclear programme - started to fall apart in 2018 when President Donald Trump withdrew from it.

Talks to revive the agreement have stalled in the past few months.

The EU's top diplomat Josep Borrell, the coordinator of the talks, warned this weekend that the possibility of returning to the accord was shrinking, but we still can do it with an extra effort, he said.

In a report late last month, the IAEA said it still had questions that were not clarified regarding traces of enriched uranium previously found at three sites that had not been declared by Iran as having hosted nuclear activities.

The United States and the so-called E 3 group of France, Germany and the UK have warned that there is no excuse for Iran's failure to provide meaningful cooperation with the agency's investigation, according to Kelsey Davenport, an expert with the Arms Control Association.

She said that a resolution censuring Iran is necessary to send a message that there are consequences for stonewalling the agency and failing to meet safeguards obligations.

China and Russia, which are also parties to the Iran nuclear deal - together with Britain, France and Germany - have warned that any resolution could disrupt the negotiations process.

Mikhail Ulyanov, Russia's ambassador to the UN in Vienna, said in a tweet that the EU should take extra diplomatic efforts, even if the climate is tense, negotiations are unlikely to fall apart, according to Clement Therme, associate researcher at the Rasanah International Institute for Iranian Studies.

The Europeans are not ready to launch a new crisis with Iran, because they are already dealing with a crisis with Russia, which invaded its neighbour in February, he said.

The expert suggested that the resolution would be worded in a way that does not close the door to further negotiations. Iran's military needs to remove the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps from the US military's official list of terror groups.

The administration of US President Joe Biden has refused to do so ahead of the tough November midterm elections.

The political cost that Biden will pay for lifting sanctions on the IRGC is high, but it pales in comparison to the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran, Davenport said.

According to the latest IAEA report, the Islamic republic now has 43.1 kilograms 95 pounds of 60 percent uranium, and Biden's administration should double down on other creative proposals to get negotiations back on track.

Davenport warned last week that if enriched to 90 percent, this could be used to make a bomb in under 10 days.

Weaponising would take one to two years, but it would be more difficult to detect and disrupt once Iran moved the weapons-grade uranium from its declared enrichment facilities, Davenport said.

Iran has always denied wanting to develop a nuclear weapon.