July 11, 2020

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Discord thwarts U.N. nuclear watchdog’s plans for virtual Iran meeting

VIENNA (Reuters) – Opposition led China to a planned resolution rebuking Iran at the U.N. nuclear watchdog’s 35-nation board has forced it to call an in-person session after four days of meeting online because of the coronavirus, diplomats said on Thursday.

France, Britain and Germany, all parties to Iran’s nuclear deal with major powers, have submitted a draft resolution to the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Board of Governors calling on Iran to stop denying the agency access to two old sites and to cooperate fully with it, diplomats taking part in the virtual meeting said.

The board prefers to adopt resolutions consensus, meaning without a vote as long as no one opposes.

Diplomats said Iran’s ally Russia told the board it saw no need for a resolution but China voiced clear opposition, prompting the board’s chairwoman to call an in-person meeting on Friday for further discussions and possibly a vote.

“Certain countries, while pushing ahead the draft resolution, have denied the peril of such a move. This is a classic case in point of an ostrich policy, totally irresponsible,” China said in a statement to the board earlier on Thursday.

If passed, the resolution would raise pressure on Iran to let inspectors into the two sites where the IAEA suspects activities potentially related to developing nuclear weapons were carried out in the early 2000s, long before the deal.

The sites could, however, still host undeclared nuclear material or traces of it, which it is the IAEA’s job to track down. The IAEA and U.S. intelligence services believe Iran had a coordinated nuclear weapons programme until 2003.

China said pressing what it called a “non-urgent” issue with a resolution could eventually lead to action the U.N. Security Council and “the ultimate termination” of the deal, known officially as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

Reporting Francois Murphy; Editing Frances Kerry

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