Iran nuclear row escalates as China warns of dire consequences

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - China on Thursday warned that even a toned-down rebuke of Tehran over its lack of co-operation with nuclear inspectors could unravel global efforts to contain the spread of atomic weapons.

A US-backed resolution drafted by France, Germany and the UK at the International Atomic Energy Agency calls on Iran to “fully co-operate” with IAEA requests to visit two sites that may have hosted low-level atomic work two decades ago.

But China submitted a five-page statement to the IAEA in Vienna on Thursday, saying the reprimand could demolish “the entire global non-proliferation regime”.

“The root causes of this situation lie in the unilateral and bullying practices of the US,” Beijing envoy Wang Qun said.

Mr Wang said that if the resolution were to pass, it could also mean the end of the 2015 nuclear agreement between Iran and world powers.

US President Donald ’s administration pulled out of the deal in 2018 and reimposed crippling economic sanctions on Iran, but other signatories pledged to salvage it.

Due the pandemic the IAEA Board of Governors meeting was held as a video conference. EPA

The row amplifies growing divisions between East and West as Beijing and Washington criticise each other’s policies.

“It is time now for us to speak formally and with one voice," said the US ambassador to the agency, Jackie Wolcott.

“The resolution tabled by France, Germany and the UK is a balanced and fair reaction to Iran’s alarming actions.

"While we firmly believe the text could be strengthened, the US accepts and fully supports the resolution and urges all other board members to do the same.”

The prospect of a unified position on Iran faded at this week’s quarterly, 35-nation IAEA meeting, held online.

Russian envoy, Mikhail Ulyanov, joined China in questioning the need for a resolution.

If a vote on the resolution were required, members would probably have to appear in person on Friday.

The IAEA reported last month that its monitors were still conducting record inspections of Iran’s declared nuclear facilities as set out in the 2015 accord.

But it said they wanted to visit sites where small-scale research with nuclear material may have taken place in the early 2000s.

The activity was first revealed in documents retrieved by Israeli intelligence agents.

IAEA monitors said they independently gathered enough information to warrant inspecting the sites.

The situation around the Iran deal “is gloomier than ever", said Tehran's representative to the IAEA, Kazem Gharib Abadi.

Mr Abadi said that the agency conducted 33 snap inspections last year.

The ability to make short-notice visits was one of the key points negotiated by the world powers under the pact.

Updated: June 19, 2020 03:51 AM

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