The U.S. special envoy for Iran has welcomed a resolution passed on June 19 by the board of governors of the United Nations' atomic agency that urges Iran to provide access to two sites where nuclear activity may have occurred in the past.
Brian Hook said the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) board’s resolution "is significant and it raises serious concerns about Iran’s nuclear program and its lack of transparency."
The resolution, the first of its kind since 2012, calls on Iran to "fully cooperate" with the IAEA and "satisfy the Agency's requests without any further delay," including by providing "prompt" access to the two sites in order to clarify whether undeclared nuclear activity took place there during the early 2000s.
Iran has been blocking access to the sites for months, prompting a growing diplomatic dispute.
Hook, speaking in a conference call with reporters, said Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted on June 18 that Iran has nothing to hide. Hook said if this is true, "then it should have no problem granting full access to IAEA inspectors."
The resolution, put forth by France, Germany, and Britain, was passed with 25 votes in favor. Russia and China voted against, while seven countries -- Azerbaijan, Pakistan, India, Mongolia, South Africa, Thailand, and Niger -- abstained.
Hook took issue with the votes cast by Russia and China, saying they tried to shield Iran from scrutiny.
"As nuclear powers, China and Russia have special responsibilities not to support nations who play cat and mouse with the IAEA," Hook said. "Their votes were irresponsible, and the international community deserves better behavior."
Kazem Gharib Abadi, the Iranian ambassador to the IAEA, said his country "strongly rejects this resolution and will respond appropriately in due course."
Iranian officials have said that such a resolution could hurt relations between Tehran and the UN agency.
Russia's ambassador to the UN in Vienna, Mikhail Ulyanov, tweeted that "the resolution can be counterproductive," while also "stressing the need for Tehran and IAEA to settle this problem without delay."
The sites in question are not thought to be directly relevant to Iran's current nuclear program. But the IAEA says it needs to know if activities going back almost two decades have been properly declared and whether all nuclear materials have been accounted for.
The IAEA says it still has the access it needs to inspect Iran's declared nuclear facilities according to its mandate under the landmark nuclear deal reached in 2015 between Iran and world powers.
The United States pulled out of the agreement in May 2018 and reimposed crippling sanctions that have battered the Iranian economy.
In response, Tehran has been progressively breaking the restrictions laid down in the agreement, saying that it can reverse them if the remaining parties to the deal -- Britain, France, Germany, China, and Russia -- comply with it. U.S. sanctions make it difficult for other parties to abide by their commitments.
The United States has also pushed for an extension of an arms embargo on Iran beyond October, when it was set to be progressively eased under the nuclear accord.
After meeting in Berlin on June 19, the foreign ministers of Britain, France, and Germany said that they too opposed lifting the embargo, saying that the move "would have major implications for regional security and stability."
But the ministers also said their countries would not back U.S. efforts to unilaterally trigger the reimposition of UN sanctions on Iran.
"Any unilateral attempt to trigger U.N. sanctions snapback would have serious adverse consequences in the U.N. Security Council," they said in a joint statement.
However, they added that they "wish to address the issue in close coordination with Russia and China."
U.S. Iran Envoy Calls IAEA Resolution 'Significant,' Says Russia, China Votes Against Were ‘Irresponsible’