Europe, U.S. Win Vote Rebuking Iran Over Nuclear Inspections

The U.S. and Europe won a key vote admonishing Iran for its failure to cooperate fully with global nuclear monitors, widening a rift with China and Russia, both allies of Tehran.

The resolution that passed Friday with 25 votes at the International Atomic Energy Agency calls on Iran to grant access to inspectors who want to visit two sites that may have hosted low-level nuclear activities two decades ago. Growing rancor over the issue forced diplomats to break Covid-19 social-distancing measures in order to conduct a physical vote at the IAEA’s headquarters in Vienna.

China and Russia rejected the resolution, while seven nations including India, Pakistan and South Africa abstained. Together, the countries that withheld their support are building more than half of the world’s new nuclear reactors — a critical measure for the IAEA, which was founded to promote peaceful uses of atomic energy.

Ahead of the vote, China warned that even a toned-down rebuke of Tehran over its alleged lack of cooperation with inspectors could unravel global efforts to contain the spread of atomic weapons, as well as sounding the death knell for the already beleaguered 2015 nuclear deal between world powers and Iran.

“The root causes of this situation lie in the unilateral and bullying practices of the U.S.,” Beijing envoy to the IAEA Wang Qun said.

The Trump administration left the Iran deal in 2018 as it ramped up its economic offensive against the Islamic Republic, but other signatories led by European states vowed to salvage the pact. Iran responded to the U.S. exit by breaking some of its enrichment obligations.

On Friday, Iran rejected the resolution and said it would give an “appropriate response.” Tehran’s permanent representative to the IAEA, Kazem Gharibabadi, warned the world body risked “destroying” the 2015 deal.

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