Just when the United Nations atomic agency watchdog agreed to a deal with Iran on inspections comes the news that Iranian security guards are reported to have physically harassed several female International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors at a nuclear facility. The U.S. has demanded that Iran stop the behavior immediately, the Wall Street Journal reported.
The incidents at Iran’s main nuclear facility, Natanz, allegedly included inappropriate touching of female inspectors by male security guards and orders to remove some clothing, the diplomats said.
One of the diplomats said there had been at least four separate incidents of harassment. A second diplomat said there had been five to seven, the Journal reported.
A paper circulated by the U.S. among IAEA members, which was seen by the Journal, stated: "Harassment of IAEA inspectors is absolutely unacceptable, and we strongly urge you to make clear in your national statement at the Board meeting that such conduct is deplorable and must end immediately, and that the Board should take appropriate action if further incidents are reported."
The IAEA has dozens of inspectors who work in Iran who regularly visit the main nuclear enrichment facilities and assembly sites at Natanz and Fordow. They check that Iran’s nuclear activities are for peaceful purposes.
The IAEA confirmed that there were "incidents" at an Iranian facility, without providing details.
"The Agency immediately and firmly raised this issue with Iran to explain in very clear and unequivocal terms that such security-related incidents involving Agency staff are unacceptable and must not happen again. Iran has provided explanations related to reinforced security procedures following events at one of their facilities," an IAEA spokesman said. "As a result of this exchange between the Agency and Iran there have been no further incidents."
Iran and the IAEA reached a deal this past weekend on inspectors' access to Iranian sites, but the reports of harassment may threaten this progress.
Some diplomats expressed concern that public disclosure of the incidents could affect inspectors' access to Iranian sites.
President Joe Biden has said he wants to rejoin the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal. Iran has tightened security at its nuclear facilities after attacks blamed on Israel. Two explosions at Natanz caused widespread damage to equipment.
Further complicating matters, Iran has a new conservative Islamic president, Ebrahim Raisi, who took office in August.
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