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September 18, 2021

Iran, US trade barbs at IAEA conference

VIENNA – Iran’s nuclear chief delivered a tough speech Monday at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that was in contrast to his country’s recent efforts to increase transparency and restart negotiations with world powers, Monsters and Critics website reported. Iran let a senior IAEA inspector visit previously off-limit sites in August and has told the agency it would consider talking about alleged nuclear weapons projects under certain conditions.

The United States and other Western countries have dismissed these steps as a ‘charm offensive’ lacking real cooperation with the IAEA. At the annual IAEA general conference, the head of Iran’s nuclear programme, Fereydoun Abbasi, did not touch on these recent developments.

Instead, he accused the United States, Britain and France of having made up intelligence information that is the basis for the IAEA’s concerns about possible nuclear weapons projects. Regarding the IAEA’s questions on weapons, which were not answered under a previously agreed work plan, he only said that the agency should ‘take brave measures to review the agreed modalities and close the nuclear case of Iran in the agency.’

In his turn, US Energy Secretary Steven Chu accused Iran of nuclear “denial, deceit and evasion”, warning that Tehran’s decision to move some uranium enrichment facilities to an underground bunker brings it closer to being able to producing the fissile core of a warhead, the ‘Washington Post reported. Tehran, however, said Western pressure was to blame for its decision to relocate thousands of enrichment machines into a fortified subterranean location and for refusing to open its nuclear activities to greater outside perusal.

The sharp tone of the exchanges on the opening day of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s 151-nation annual conference reflected the international divide over Iran’s nuclear activities nine years after revelations that the Islamic Republic was secretly assembling a uranium enrichment facility. Since then, the U.N. Security Council has imposed four sets of sanctions on Iran for its refusal to stop enrichment.

The annual IAEA conference will focus on a new nuclear security plan following the disaster at Japan’s Fukushima plant and amid fears over Iran’s nuclear ambitions, the Economic Times said. Last week, the IAEA board of governors announced a safety action plan, which they hope will raise safety standards and enhance environmental protection. The non-binding deal has to be ratified by the 151 member states until Friday.

Romania named president of IAEA General Conference

Yesterday morning, meanwhile, Romania was chosen for the first time president of the IAEA General Conference currently held in Vienna, according to a press release from the Foreign Ministry. The position will be held by Romania’s envoy to the IAEA, Cornel Feruta and his main duties will include leading plenary sessions, helping consensus on sensitive matters on the agenda, coordinating negotiations between member states and regional groups.
The release also notes that this General Conference in Vienna is the first after the Fukushima accident, so nuclear safety debates would hold a central place.

Anti-nuclear protesters march in Japan

Meanwhile, anti-nuclear activists marched in Japan Monday to build momentum for their movement, Voice of America said. An anti-nuclear coalition in Japan says it is trying to gather ten million signatures on a petition to submit to the government by the one-year anniversary of the accident at the Fukushima-1 nuclear power plant.

Organizers predicted 50,000 people would attend Monday’s event and say 60,000 actually participated. The police, however, estimate the crowd – at a rally in a park and a subsequent peaceful march through nearby streets – totaled only about 20,000 people.

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