TEHRAN -- The Iranian regime will not grant the United Nations (UN)'s nuclear watchdog access to secret sites where it is believed the country is stockpiling uranium in violation of various international accords, Iran's ambassador to the watchdog agency said Wednesday (March 4).
The director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Tuesday (March 3) in Vienna sounded the alarm on Tehran's nuclear programme and demanded "clarifications" over an undeclared site in Tehran where uranium particles were found late last year.
"Iran must decide to co-operate in a clearer manner with the agency to give the necessary clarifications," said Rafael Grossi, the new IAEA chief.
"The fact that we found traces (of uranium) is very important. That means there is the possibility of nuclear activities and material that are not under international supervision and about which we know not the origin or the intent. That worries me," Grossi added.
While the IAEA has not identified the site in question, the agency asked the Iranian regime about a site in the Turquzabad district of Tehran, diplomatic sources told AFP.
Kazem Gharib Abadim, Iranian ambassador to the IAEA, deemed the agency's information "fabricated".
Sufficient material to produce nuclear weapon
This refusal comes only a day after the IAEA said Iran's stockpile of enriched uranium was more than five times the limit fixed under a landmark 2015 deal with world powers.
An IAEA report published March 3 said that as of February 19 the Iranian stockpile stood at 1,510kg, as opposed to the 300kg limit set under the agreement.
This level provides sufficient material to produce a nuclear weapon, say some specialists.
However, it would still need several more steps, including further enrichment, to make it suitable for use in a weapon.
This is the latest in Tehran's progressive reduction in its commitment to international accords regarding its nuclear programme.
The Iranian regime on January 5 said it was abandoning its nuclear commitments and foregoing the "limit on the number of centrifuges".
A week later Britain, France and Germany launched a dispute mechanism under the 2015 nuclear deal after accusing Tehran of repeated violations.
Last July, the Iranian regime admitted to breaching the uranium enrichment cap set by the nuclear deal, surpassing the cap and reaching 4.5% enrichment after ignoring repeated international calls for a stop to its activity.
Issues with transparency
Tehran in recent months has suffered from a string of transparency mishaps that has considerably undercut its credibility with its own population and the international community.
Most recently, international concern is growing over the Iranian regime's lack of transparency in delivering accurate information to the public on the uncontrolled coronavirus outbreak in the country as it threatens neighbouring countries and beyond.
In January, despite video and circumstantial evidence pointing to a surface-to-air missile hitting Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752, Tehran continued for days to deny that its own missile destroyed the plane.
But faced with increasing international and internal pressure, the regime finally admitted the truth -- that the Iranian military shot down the plane in a "catastrophic mistake".
That admission -- and the appearance of an attempted cover-up -- sparked days of anti-government protests in Iran.
Tens of thousands of Iranians took to the streets with renewed outrage, shouting "Death to the dictator" -- a reference to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei -- "Death to liars" and other anti-regime slogans.
The UN is also concerned about Tehran's continuing lack of transparency about casualties and the treatment of detainees following a crackdown on Iranian protesters in November.