March 21, 2023

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Any Attack on Iran Would Violate Law, UN Says in Dig at Israel

(Bloomberg) —

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Any attack on Iran’s nuclear sites would violate international law whether by Israel or any other country, the head of the United Nations nuclear watchdog said Monday.

International Atomic Energy Agency’s Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi was reacting to comments by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as well as a shift in Israeli perceptions of the time-frame for any potential strike on Iran’s expanding atomic program.

“Attacks on nuclear facilities are illegal, are a violation of the UN Charter, the statutes of the IAEA,” Grossi said.

Israel Rethinks Its Iran Strike Timeline as Russia Enters Mix

Netanyahu had scolded Grossi on Sunday, calling him a “worthy gentleman” who made “unworthy” remarks after the UN diplomat first made comments about the illegality of attacking nuclear sites. Netanyahu reiterated Israel’s line that it was permitted to defend itself.

Israeli officials believe the window for a potential strike on Tehran’s nuclear program could be narrowing because Iran is seeking sophisticated new air-defense systems from Russia that would make any future military action more difficult. This is ahppening as Iran’s output of highly-enriched uranium is surging to record highs.

The IAEA’s 35-member board of governors convened Monday in the Austrian capital Vienna to discuss Iran’s work. Investigators detected particles enriched to 84% purity last month and are still trying to determine how they came to be at a nuclear-fuel plant in Fordow.

“Trying to confirm that diplomatic technical solutions are possible is my job,” Grossi said. “Maybe military people think otherwise.”

Grossi met with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi over the weekend, saying the conversation resulted in a “marked improvement” in dialog. The Islamic Republic has stonewalled a separate IAEA investigation into particles discovered at three locations almost four years, as well as removed monitoring equipment installed as part of the country’s moribund agreement with world powers.

The visit followed almost two years of indirect talks between Iran and the US, to resuscitate the 2015 nuclear deal that former US President Donald Trump abandoned in 2018. Iran retaliated by gradually ramping up its nuclear work and restricting surveillance at some of its atomic facilities.

Netanyahu questioned “against which law” is Israel prohibited from attacking Iran and asked whether the country is permitted to defend itself. “It is clear that we are and it is clear that we will do so,” he said Sunday.

Iran accuses Israel of assassinating its nuclear scientists, most recently as in late 2020, as well as hacking and other nuclear sabotage. Israel doesn’t publicly own up to them but they are widely acknowledged by officials both in the US and in Israel.

Grossi said he wants to “defuse and deter any possibility of the use of force.” The IAEA and Iran will convene more technical meetings “very soon” in Tehran to clarify investigators’ questions, he said.

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