September 28, 2023

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West Issues Iran New Ultimatum Over Stalled Nuclear Probe

(Bloomberg) — Europe and the US issued Iran a new ultimatum on Thursday: cooperate with investigators to resolve a UN nuclear-watchdog probe or face a new legal motion of censure.

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France, Germany, the UK and US made their demand at the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, where diplomats convened this week to discuss the Islamic Republic’s nuclear work.

The watchdog refrained from punishing Iran at the meeting, exercising caution ahead of a planned exchange of US prisoners for sanctioned Iranian cash that’s seen as a precursor to the potential resumption of talks over the country’s nuclear program.

Read more: Tracking the Twists and Turns of the US-Iran Conflict: QuickTake

While the Islamic Republic has slowed its production of near-bomb grade uranium in recent months, and signaled its readiness for a new round of diplomacy, it hasn’t answered IAEA questions about the presence of particles detected at undeclared sites.

IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said this week he’s concerned the focus on the swap — and easing tensions with Iran — would overshadow that investigation.

“Iran needs to provide, without further delay, technically credible information on the current location(s) of nuclear material and contaminated equipment,” the four nations wrote in a statement.

The row over Iran’s nuclear program, about to enter its third decade at the IAEA, has increasingly divided member states. A separate group of countries led by China and Russia said the IAEA and Iran should continue to work without facing political pressure.

“It is fundamentally important that the interaction between Iran and the IAEA on resolution of the outstanding issues continues,” they wrote. “This process should be carried out in a depoliticized manner without interference from the outside.”

Iran’s nuclear work has increasingly been caught up in larger geopolitical developments, including Russia’s war in Ukraine and a diplomatic thaw between the Islamic Republic and Saudi Arabia.

US officials have privately acknowledged they’ve already begun to relax enforcement of sanctions on oil sales, allowing Tehran to restore production to the highest level since the restrictions kicked in five years ago.

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