An Iranian diplomat has censured Saudi Arabia for refusing to subject its nuclear activities to “supervision and verification” processes of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) after the kingdom’s energy minister accused Iran of not fully cooperating with the UN nuclear watchdog.
Khodayar Rouzbahani, the political attaché at Iran’s permanent mission to the Vienna-based international organizations, told reporters on Tuesday that it is a bitter irony that the adage ‘the best defense is a good offense’ is turning into a pattern at the IAEA.
Addressing the 65th regular session of the General Conference of the IAEA on Monday, Saudi Arabia's Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman accused Iran of “non-transparency with the agency, which poses a threat to the non-proliferation ecosystem.”
Hitting back at the accusation, Rouzbahani said, “Iran, the agency and the international community will be absolutely delighted if Saudi Arabia and others in the Middle East could implement the same safeguards commitments that Iran is implementing now.”
The Iranian diplomat emphasized that Riyadh does not fully implement the comprehensive safeguards agreements and refuses to give the minimum access to the IAEA to carry out necessary verification of its nuclear activities.
“Saudi Arabia is making comments on Iran’s nuclear program while that country is still implementing the old version of the ‘small quantities protocol’ (SQP) and, as a result, is blocking a comprehensive supervision and verification of its nuclear program by the IAEA,” he noted.
He said that Saudi Arabia has frequently ignored calls made by the IAEA’s secretariat to rescind the small quantities protocol, adding that the non-implementation of the agency’s safeguards agreements allows Saudi Arabia to conceal the real scope of its nuclear activities from international inspectors.
He reiterated that Iran is “fully and sincerely” implementing the IAEA comprehensive safeguards agreements, and raised alarms about non-implementation by Saudi Arabia and the Israeli regime.
Rouzbahani expressed regret that non-membership to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) or a special safeguards agreement with the IAEA have become an excuse for certain states to “refrain from fulfilling their commitments regarding the full and verifiable implementation of what is required to assure the international community of peaceful nuclear activities.”
“Turning a blind eye to the existing realities of the Middle East region will not be in the interest of peace and stability in this region and the international community,” he pointed out.
Iran’s permanent representative to Vienna-based international organizations Kazem Gharibabadi echoed similar concerns in July, stressing the IAEA has been denied the “minimum” authorities for verifying Saudi Arabia’s nuclear activities in Saudi Arabia.
He warned that this lack of transparency could allow the kingdom to pursue a covert atomic program.
“A failure to implement the safeguards by rescinding the SQPs, could allow them to hide certain nuclear activities without them being subject to the IAEA inspections,” he added.
Saudi Arabia’s nuclear ambitions have prompted worries in the global community over the past few years, especially after Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman hinted in 2018 that the kingdom may go for nukes.
Citing Western officials, The Wall Street Journal reported last August that Saudi Arabia, with Chinese help, has built a facility for extraction of yellowcake from uranium ore near the remote town of al-Ula.
The New York Times also reported that American intelligence agencies had spotted what appeared to be an undeclared nuclear site not too far from the Saudi town of al-Uyaynah.
Unlike Saudi Arabia, Iran showed the peaceful nature of its nuclear program to the world by signing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with six world states — namely the US, Germany, France, Britain, Russia and China — in 2015. The accord was also ratified in the form of UN Security Council Resolution 2231.
The United States unilaterally withdrew from the historic accord in 2018 and reinstated the sanctions that the deal had lifted.