U.N. nuclear watchdog's board raises pressure on Iran over suspect sites

FILE PHOTO: International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Grossi awaits the start of an interactive board of governors meeting at IAEA headquarters in Vienna, Austria, June 15, 2020. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger/File Photo

VIENNA (Reuters) - The U.N. nuclear watchdog’s 35-nation Board of Governors called on Iran on Friday to stop denying the agency access to two suspected former sites and to cooperate fully with it, diplomats attending the meeting said.

A resolution, adopted in a vote called after China expressed opposition to it, raised pressure on Iran to let inspectors into the sites mentioned in two International Atomic Energy Agency reports because they could still host undeclared nuclear material or traces of it.

The text of the resolution submitted by France, Britain and Germany and obtained by Reuters said the board “calls on Iran to fully cooperate with the Agency and satisfy the Agency’s requests without any further delay, including by providing prompt access to the locations specified by the Agency.”

Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with major powers drew a line under what the IAEA and U.S. intelligence services believe was a covert, coordinated atomic weapons programme halted in 2003. But Israel’s seizure of what is calls part of an “archive” of Iran’s past work appears to have yielded new clues on old activities.

The IAEA suspects activities possibly related to developing nuclear weapons were carried out in the early 2000s at these sites. Iran has suggested the IAEA is seeking access based on the Israeli information, which it argues is inadmissible. It also says the IAEA file on its old activities has been closed.

The resolution, the first by the board since 2015 and the implementation of the nuclear deal, was passed by a 25-2 margin with seven abstentions, diplomats said.

Iran’s allies China and Russia opposed the measure while South Africa, India, Pakistan, Thailand, Mongolia, Azerbaijan and Niger abstained.

“I think the pronouncement has been clear,” IAEA chief Rafael Grossi told reporters. “I intend to sit down with Iran very soon and to try to solve this as soon as possible. I start with the ambassador here...and then we will see,” he added.

Reporting by Francois Murphy; Editing by Mark Heinrich