Iran's ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Kazem Gharib Abadi waits for the start of a board of governors meeting at the IAEA headquarters in Vienna, Austria, November 7, 2019. REUTERS/Lisi Niesner
VIENNA (Reuters) - The European Union and United States expressed concern on Thursday over Iran’s holding of an inspector from the U.N. nuclear watchdog last week, with the U.S. envoy to the agency calling it an “outrageous provocation” that must have consequences.
Reuters first reported on Wednesday that Iran had briefly held the inspector and seized her travel documents in what appears to be the first incident of its kind since Iran’s nuclear deal with major powers was struck in 2015.
Iran confirmed that it prevented the inspector from gaining access to its main uranium-enrichment facility at Natanz. Its envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency told reporters that it was because she tested positive for traces of explosives but then no longer did after going to the toilet while waiting for a further search, which prompted further investigation.
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“The detention of an IAEA inspector in Iran is an outrageous provocation. All Board members need to make clear now and going forward that such actions are completely unacceptable, will not be tolerated, and must have consequences,” the U.S. ambassador to the IAEA, Jackie Wolcott, said in a statement to the IAEA’s 35-nation Board of Governors.
The European Union said in its statement that it was “deeply concerned” by what happened. Iran’s ambassador to the IAEA told reporters the inspector was soon repatriated and Tehran had asked that she be removed from the list of designated inspectors.
“We understand that the incident was resolved and call upon Iran to ensure that no such incidents occur in the future,” the EU statement said.
Reporting by Francois Murphy; Editing by Alex Richardson and Giles Elgood