Iran is calling on the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to clarify its position regarding an alleged Israeli attack on a centrifuge-component manufacturing workshop near Tehran in June, amid a dispute with the UN nuclear agency over access to the site.
Speaking to journalists on October 3, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, Mohammad Eslami, deplored that the Vienna-based IAEA and Western powers have not condemned the "terrorist act" in which the TESA Karaj facility was “severely destroyed.”
Eslami’s comments come after the IAEA said on September 26 that it was denied “indispensable” access to the site contrary to a September 12 agreement under which Tehran allowed international inspectors to service surveillance cameras at its sensitive nuclear sites and to continue filming there.
The United States and European Union have called on Iran to allow UN inspectors access to the site.
Tehran has claimed that the facility is exempt from the agreement, which averted the agency’s 35-nation Board of Governors issuing a resolution criticizing Iran for stonewalling the IAEA.
“The IAEA representatives in both Tehran and Vienna were told about these important details: the facility was severely destroyed, in particular where the cameras were supposed to be located,” Eslami said on October 3.
“It is regrettable that neither the IAEA nor the countries that have made monitoring claims against us condemned that terrorist act,” he added.
Satellite images appeared to show damage to the TESA Karaj facility after the June incident, and reports suggested that one out of four IAEA cameras at the site were destroyed during the incident.
Iran has accused Israel of sabotaging its nuclear program and assassinating its nuclear scientists, including top scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh who was killed near Tehran last year. Fakhrizadeh was credited with beginning an alleged military nuclear program decades ago that U.S. intelligence and the IAEA say was abandoned in 2003.
Eslami’s comments also come amid stalled nuclear talks aimed at reviving the 2015 nuclear deal under which Tehran significantly limited its nuclear work in exchange for sanctions relief.
That deal started to fall apart in 2018 when then-U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from it and reinstated crippling economic sanctions. Iran reacted by gradually ramping up its nuclear activities.
U.S. President Joe Biden has promised to rejoin the deal if Tehran returns to full compliance.
Iran’s new Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian has said that Tehran would resume the nuclear talks “very soon” while being vague about the time frame.
Speaking on October 4, Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh suggested that talks with world powers aimed at reviving the 2015 deal could resume by early November.
"The government of [President] Ebrahim Raisi has been in power for 50, 55 days...I don't think that the [return to talks] will be less than the 90 days that it took the Biden administration to return to negotiations," he added, indicating that Iran believes talks will be under way again by the second week of November.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned last week that time was running out for Tehran to return to the deal.
“The ball remains in their court, but not for long," Blinken told reporters, adding that "there is a limited runway on that, and the runway is getting shorter."