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Diplomats claim that Iran has refused to answer important questions asked by the IAEA over allegations about a now-dismantled site in Tehran to store nuclear equipment and material.

Iran is refusing to cooperate with a UN investigation into its alleged storage of nuclear equipment and radioactive material in Tehran by the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Diplomats claim that Iran has refused to answer important questions asked by the IAEA over allegations that Iran had established a now-dismantled site in Tehran to store nuclear equipment and material used during past weapons development.

These allegations were first publicly raised by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in April 2018, when he revealed a massive cache of secret documents concerning Iran’s nuclear weapons development plans smuggled out of Tehran by the Mossad.

“In 2017, Iran moved its nuclear-weapons files to the Shorabad district in southern Tehran. Few Iranians knew where it was, very few, and also a few Israelis,” Netanyahu said. “From the outside the vault looked like a dilapidated warehouse. It contained Iran’s secret atomic archives locked in massive files.”

The documents focused on the secret Iranian nuclear program that was developed from 1999 to 2003 called Project Amad. When Iran entered the 2015 nuclear deal, it denied that such a program existed.

The project’s mission statement was to “design, product and test five warheads, each with 10-kiloton TNT yield for integration on a missile.

The files Israel uncovered also dealt with the Fordow uranium enrichment facility, which Netanyahu said was designed from the start to be part of Project Amad.

According to The Wall Street Journal, this is the first time that the Islamic Republic has refused to cooperate with IAEA monitoring since the nuclear deal went into effect in January 2016. Until recently, the UN nuclear agency had repeatedly stated that Iran was meeting all its commitments and cooperating with inspections.

Quarterly IAEA reports say its inspectors have had access to all the places in Iran they have needed to visit, which IAEA chief Yukiya Amano repeated in a speech in April.

The IAEA had told UN member states that it would criticize Iran for its behavior, but in a report released on Friday, the agency only made passing reference to the problem, according to the diplomats.

The UN nuclear agency’s actions concerning Iran “continue a pattern of the agency’s unwillingness to hold Tehran accountable for the violations of its nuclear safeguard obligations,” according to Mark Dubowitz, CEO of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a think tank which has posed opposition to the Iran nuclear deal.

The diplomats did clarify that the radioactive material in Tehran is almost definitely not useful to the Islamic Republic for ammassing fuel for a nuclear weapon, according to The Wall Street Journal. The material is likely left over from work conducted by Iran years ago. Western officials claim that this work was conducted with the aim of developing a nuclear weapon, while Iran claims that the nuclear program has always been for peaceful purposes.

An IAEA spokesman stated that details about the agency’s work are confidential. “A rigorous technical and legal process is followed and any suggestion of internal differences…is strongly denied,” said an IAEA spokesman.

In April, the IAEA inspectors found traces of radioactive material at the Turquz Abad site that Netanyahu claimed had contained 300 tons of nuclear-related equipment.

Olli Heinonen, former deputy director-general for safeguards at the IAEA, told The Jerusalem Post in June that Iran may have at least five clandestine underground nuclear facilities that the IAEA does not know about.

In July, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Ali Akbar Salehi, stated that Iran had enriched 24 tons of uranium since signing the 2015 JCPOA nuclear deal, according to Radio Farda. It was unclear what exactly he meant or what happened to the 24 tons of enriched uranium. The JCPOA agreement required Tehran to limit its stock of enriched uranium to 300 kg.

A political affairs analyst Reza Taghizadeh said that 23 of the 24 tons of enriched uranium have been exported from the country and that only 300-350 kg were kept in Iran.

The JCPOA nuclear agreement guaranteed Iran access to world trade in return for accepting curbs on its nuclear program. Tehran says the deal allows it to respond to the US breach by reducing its compliance, and it will do so every 60 days.

Iran’s government spokesman said on Monday that Iran and France’s views on the nuclear deal have moved closer, mainly after phone calls between President Hassan Rouhani and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Monday it would further reduce its commitments under a 2015 nuclear deal if European parties failed to shield Tehran’s economy from sanctions reimposed by the United States after Washington quit the accord last year.
Tehran has threatened to take further steps by Sept. 6, such as enriching uranium to 20% or restarting mothballed centrifuges, machines that purify uranium for use as fuel in power plants or, if very highly enriched, in weapons.