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Saturday , October 31 2020

Iran grants access to 2 suspect N-sites

Arms embargo needed: Berlin

This satellite image from Planet Labs Inc., that has been annotated by experts at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at Middlebury Institute of International Studies, shows a fire at a rocket launch pad at the Imam Khomeini Space Center in Iran’s Semnan province, Thursday Aug. 29, 2019. The satellite image released Thursday shows the smoldering remains of a rocket at a Iran space center that was to conduct a U.S.-criticized satellite launch. (Planet Labs Inc, Middlebury Institute of International Studies via AP)

BERLIN, Aug 27, (AP): Iran has agreed to allow inspectors into two sites where the country is suspected of having stored or used undeclared nuclear material, the UN atomic watchdog agency has said.

The International Atomic Energy Agency said Iran was “voluntarily providing the IAEA with access to the two locations specified by the IAEA and facilitating the IAEA verification activities to resolve the issues.”

It said in a joint statement with Iran that the dates for the inspections had been agreed, but did not elaborate. IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi wouldn’t name the dates after returning to Vienna on Wednesday evening, but said they will take place “very, very soon.” He called the outcome “very important” for peace and security.

The inspections would resolve a months-long impasse between Iran and the IAEA. Grossi’s visit to Tehran this week was his first since taking over as the agency’s leader in December.

“Iran must fully cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency,” said a United Kingdom spokesperson, who by tradition is not named. “We welcome Iran’s commitment to grant access to the agency and fully support the IAEA and its safeguards mandate, which is an essential part of the non-proliferation system.”

Iran had been resisting providing access to the sites, which are thought to be from the early 2000s, before it signed the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, maintaining the IAEA had no legal basis to visit them.

The head of Iran’s nuclear agency, Ali Akbar Salehi, confirmed that Iran had agreed to the inspections, saying “this will bring the case to an end.”

“We are loyal to conventions and our commitments,” he said, adding that he hoped the agreement would open a new chapter between Iran and the IAEA based upon “good intentions and mutual acceptance.”

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who on Wednesday met with the IAEA chief, said Grossi’s visit had produced a “good agreement that can help for moving on a correct and proper path and achieve the final resolution of problems.”

As the US and others continue to put more pressure on Iran, Rouhani urged the IAEA to continue its “independence, impartiality and professionalism.”

Grossi told IAEA board members in March that it had “identified a number of questions related to possible undeclared nuclear material and nuclear-related activities at three locations that have not been declared by Iran” and had been pressing for access.

Meanwhile, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas agreed with his Israeli counterpart Thursday that an effort must be made to extend a weapon embargo on Iran, while stressing Germany still sees the landmark 2015 deal between Tehran and world powers as the best way to prevent the country from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

With a current UN arms embargo on Iran due to expire on Oct 18, Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi told reporters in Berlin an extension was needed to prevent Iran from getting “more advanced weapons systems and spreading them around the Middle East.”

“We would like to see the European countries, not just Germany, preventing it,” he said. “It’s not helpful for the stability of the region.”

Ashkenazi was in Berlin to attend a two-day meeting of European foreign ministers at the invitation of Germany, which holds the European Union’s rotating presidency.

The United States wants a full extension of the embargo on Iran, which would almost certainly be vetoed by Russia and China in the UN Security Council, Maas said.

Germany and others are currently trying to find some middle ground that would meet with Russian and Chinese approval – and not be vetoed by the US in the Security Council.

“We are trying to reach a diplomatic solution so that there will be an arms embargo on Iran in the future,” Maas said.

At the same time, he said Germany still sees the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action signed with Iran in 2015, promising the country economic incentives in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program, the best deal to prevent the country from developing an atomic weapon.

Israel is against the deal, and the US pulled out unilaterally in 2018, leaving the others involved – Germany, France, Britain, Russia and China – struggling to keep it alive.

Maas said concerns outside the JCPOA, like Iran’s ballistic missile program and influence in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq, need to be addressed, but that “we want to preserve the JCPOA to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”

“Iran must change its approach in the region, we are not naive about Iran,” he said. “We know that Iran plays a dangerous role.”

The two ministers met at the House of the Wannsee Conference memorial, a villa in southwestern Berlin where senior Nazis and bureaucrats coordinated plans for the Holocaust in 1942.

Ashkenazi said that as the son of a Holocaust survivor, it was particularly emotional for him to visit the place where the “evil and cruelness” of the genocide of 6 million Jews was plotted.

Maas said anti-Semitism still exists in Germany today, and the memorial serves as a reminder that “we should fight it with available means.”

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