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Iran Admits Removal of IAEA Cameras    09/16 06:12


   TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Iran acknowledged on Wednesday that it had removed 
several surveillance cameras installed by U.N. nuclear inspectors at a 
centrifuge assembly site that came under a mysterious attack earlier this year.

   The chief of the country's nuclear program, Mohammad Eslami, sought to 
portray the removal of cameras as Tehran's response to world powers reneging on 
their commitments under the tattered 2015 nuclear deal.

   "The parties did not implement their commitments so there were no necessity 
for the cameras' existence," Eslami said after a meeting with lawmakers -- 
remarks apparently aimed at his own domestic audience under the country's new 
hard-line President Ebrahim Raisi.

   Eslami's comments come days after a confidential International Atomic Energy 
Agency report that revealed the nuclear watchdog found one surveillance camera 
to be destroyed and second severely damaged after their removal from the 
centrifuge manufacturing site in Karaj, a city about 40 kilometers (25 miles) 
northwest of Tehran.

   In June, Iran accused Israel of mounting a sabotage attack on the site, 
which makes components for machines used to enrich uranium. Without disclosing 
details of the assault, Iranian authorities acknowledged the strike had damaged 
the building.

   Addressing swirling questions about the agency's broken surveillance 
cameras, Eslami said Wednesday they were damaged during recent "terrorist 
operations," without elaborating.

   The attack on Karaj was just the latest in a series of suspected assaults 
targeting Iran's nuclear program that have heightened regional hostilities in 
recent months, as world powers attempt to salvage the now-collapsed nuclear 
deal. Israel is widely believed to have carried out the sabotage, though it has 
not claimed responsibility.

   Tensions eased slightly in the contest over IAEA surveillance cameras at 
Iran's sensitive nuclear sites earlier this week, when Iran agreed to allow 
international inspectors to install new memory cards into surveillance cameras 
at its atomic facilities to continue filming.

   Tehran holds all recordings at its sites as negotiations over the U.S. and 
Iran returning to the landmark nuclear deal remain stalled in Vienna. As Tehran 
tries to ramp up pressure on the West to grant sanctions relief, the country is 
now enriching small amounts of uranium to its closest-ever levels to 
weapons-grade purity as its stockpile continues to grow.

   Tehran maintains its nuclear program is peaceful, and Eslami on Wednesday 
hit back against those who accuse Iran of covertly pursuing a nuclear bomb.

   "What Iran has gained in the nuclear field is based on domestic research and 
development, and nobody can stop this" Eslami said, adding that he will travel 
to Vienna next week for a meeting with the IAEA. "We should not allow ourselves 
to be accused of secrecy by the world."

   In a similar statement pitched to the Iranian domestic audience, the 
country's envoy to the IAEA, Kazem Gharibabadi, also struck a harsh tone 
against the nuclear watchdog.

   The IAEA is not fulfilling "its duties and responsibilities with regard to 
the terrorist sabotage of peaceful facilities of its members," Gharibabadi 
said, warning that "as long as the agency does not address the controversies, 
problems will continue."

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