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Iran’s Zarif warns of countermeasures if IAEA governors issue anti-Iran resolution

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif

Iran’s foreign minister has warned against a likely anti-Iran resolution by the IAEA Board of Governors, saying the Islamic Republic has some options to take in case “reason does not prevail” on the other side.

The board is about to hold a quarterly meeting in Vienna Monday, with the US having said it wants a resolution to "express the Board’s deepening concern with respect to Iran’s cooperation with the IAEA”.

The US has reportedly sent a position paper to the board members, demanding that they call on Iran to reverse its remedial measures and cooperate with the IAEA to explain how uranium particles were allegedly found at old, undeclared sites.

“We have provided the necessary explanations about these conditions to all members of the Board of Governors. We hope that reason will prevail, and if that does not happen, we have options to take,” Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on the sidelines of a meeting of the Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Committee on Monday.

The US has reportedly asked the board to discuss a range of issues, including its verification and monitoring activities in Iran and the NPT Safeguards Agreement with the country and the Europeans have supported it.

Diplomats were quoted as saying that it was still unclear whether the board would adopt a resolution. In June, after the IAEA said Iran had denied it access for snap inspections at two sites, the board passed a resolution calling on Iran to relent while Russia and China opposed it.

Zarif warned that an anti-Iran resolution by the IAEA governors will make a mess of the status quo with regard to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – a landmark nuclear agreement Iran signed with six world powers, including the US, Russia, China, France, Germany and Britain, in 2015.

“The Europeans triggered a wrong move with the backing of the US at the IAEA Board of Governors. We think the move will make a mess of the situation,” Zarif said.

The meeting comes against the background of a halt by Iran of its voluntary implementation of the Additional Protocol that allowed the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) to carry out short-notice inspections at Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Iran made the move in response to almost three years of heavy sanctions the US slapped on Tehran after former US president Donald Trump unilaterally pulled his country out of the JCPOA. Since the US withdrawal, the three European parties to the deal backed away from their own commitments as well, but they showed up at the scene again after Joe Biden became president.

On Sunday, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) warned that Iran will respond appropriately in case the IAEA Board of Governors issues a resolution against Iran.

“If the Board of Governors adopts a resolution against Iran, we will show an appropriate reaction,” Ali Akbar Salehi said, adding that Tehran has sent a letter to the nuclear agency on the issue.

In its paper, Iran has said it "perceives this move as destructive and considers it as an end to the Joint Understanding of 21 February 2021 between the Agency and the Islamic Republic of Iran,” referring to a deal this month with IAEA chief Rafael Grossi.

In the meantime, Iran has consistently voiced readiness to resolve the issues, saying it is not interested in the escalation of tensions with the United States. But at the same time, Tehran has warned the other parties that it is ready to further reduce its nuclear undertakings, for instance by deleting the IAEA cameras’ data if the US sanctions are not lifted.

Late on Sunday, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman said Iran will not hold an unofficial meeting with European Union and American officials, citing the United States’ refusal to lift the sanctions and return to its commitments, adding that there is nothing to be negotiated over the obvious necessity of the implementation of the JCPOA by all parties.

It came after The Wall Street Journal quoted senior diplomats as saying that Iran has rejected a European Union offer to arrange direct nuclear talks with the US.

Russia: Call for dialog incompatible with threat of new resolution

Ahead of the Monday meeting of the IAEA Board of Governors, Russia’s Permanent Representative to the International Organizations in Vienna Mikhail Ulyanov criticized the threat of an anti-Iran resolution while inviting Tehran to enter dialog.

“Something is absolutely wrong here,” he tweeted Monday. 

“The fact of the invitation is good and very appropriate, but such an invitation is not compatible with the threat of adoption of an unjustifiable resolution by #IAEA Board of Governors in a few days."

Ulyanov called upon Russia’s JCPOA partners and other IAEA governors to refrain from taking “clumsy” and “irresponsible” steps which can undermine the prospects for the full restoration of the nuclear pact.

At this stage we call upon our #JCPOA partners and other #IAEA Governors to be prudent and to refrain from taking clumsy and irresponsible steps which can (even will) undermine the prospects for full restoration of #JCPOA in near future through businesslike negotiations.

— Mikhail Ulyanov (@Amb_Ulyanov) February 28, 2021

Ulyanov also proposed a synchronized action by Iran and the US to return to full compliance with the JCPOA without “engaging in fruitless discussions [on] who must go first,” a proposal initially put forward by Iran early last month, only to be dismissed by the Biden administration which insisted that Iran must go first.

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