IAEA disputes Iran’s allegation UN inspector tested positive for explosives

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The UN nuclear watchdog disputed on Thursday Iran's allegation that its inspector was blocked from a nuclear site last week because she tested positive for suspected traces of explosive nitrates.

Iran canceled the accreditation of a UN nuclear inspector on Thursday, after she reportedly triggered an alarm last week at entrance to the Natanz uranium enrichment plant, according to an online post by the Iranian Atomic Energy Organisation (IAEO).

The IAEO said that the inspector had “triggered an alarm” which raised concern that she could be carrying a “suspect product” on her.

The Iranian organization said it had reported the incident to UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and notified it that its inspector’s accreditation had been withdrawn. She had since left Iran for Vienna, where the IAEA is based, it said, without saying when.

The UN nuclear watchdog said on Thursday it “does not agree with” Iran’s claims that its inspector was tested positive for traces of explosives, calling Iran’s treatment of the inspector “not acceptable.”

IAEA Acting Director General IAEA Cornel Feruta said the IAEA Board of Governors had been informed “that an agency inspector was last week temporarily prevented from leaving Iran,” a statement from the agency said.

According to the statement, Feruta said: “Preventing an inspector from leaving a country, particularly when instructed to do so by the Agency, is not acceptable and should not occur.”

The US said Iran’s holding of an inspector from the UN nuclear watchdog was an “outrageous provocation” during an emergency meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency's 35-nation Board of Governors on Thursday on Iran.

“The detention of an IAEA inspector in Iran is an outrageous provocation. All Board members need to make clear now and going forward that such actions are completely unacceptable, will not be tolerated, and must have consequences,” the US ambassador to the IAEA, Jackie Wolcott, said in a statement to the board.

The European Union voiced ‘deep concern’ over the incident in a statement on Thursday.

In a statement delivered to a special meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), an EU representative said: “The EU is... deeply concerned by the incident concerning one IAEA inspector.”

According to a source close to the IAEA, the 35 members of its council of governors will hold a special meeting dedicated to Iran.

On Wednesday, Iran started to inject uranium gas into centrifuges at its underground Fordow nuclear facility, according to reports from Iranian state TV. The move is part of Tehran’s fourth step in scaling back its commitments to the 2015 nuclear deal.

By Thursday morning, Iran claimed that the percentage of uranium enrichment in its Fordow nuclear complex had almost reached the levels it was at before the 2015 deal.

“Iran has no credible reason to expand its uranium enrichment program, at the Fordow facility or elsewhere, other than a clear attempt at nuclear extortion that will only deepen its political and economic isolation,” a spokesperson from the US State Department said in response.

- With AFP.

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