Iran’s Rouhani warns UN agency over nuke site access demands

President Hassan Rouhani ‘Iran is still ready to accept legal surveillance by the (UN) agency.’ (AFP file photo)
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Updated 24 June 2020

Iran’s Rouhani warns UN agency over nuke site access demands

  • President Hassan Rouhani said a stern response ‘is easy’ for Iran but that the country prefers cooperation with the UN watchdog

TEHRAN, Iran: Iran’s president on Wednesday warned the UN nuclear watchdog to expect a “stern response” from his country regarding the agency’s demands for Iran to provide access to sites where Tehran is thought to have stored or used undeclared nuclear material.
In a televised speech, President Hassan Rouhani said a stern response “is easy” for Iran but that the country prefers cooperation with the UN watchdog.
The remarks reflect Tehran’s irritation at a resolution adopted last week by the board of the International Atomic Energy Agency demanding access to the sites. The resolution was proposed by Germany, France and Britain while Russia and China voted against it.
Iran has dismissed allegations of nuclear activities at the sites in question.
Rouhani said on Wednesday that “Iran is still ready to accept legal surveillance by the (UN) agency and would continue close cooperation within the legal framework” of the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers.
The IAEA resolution came after the agency’s Director General Rafael Grossi reiterated concerns that Iran had denied for more than four months access to UN inspectors to two locations “to clarify our questions related to possible undeclared nuclear material and nuclear-related activities.”
Activities at the sites are thought to have been from the early 2000s, before Iran signed the nuclear deal. Iran maintains the IAEA has no legal basis to inspect them.
“The agency should not exit its legal path,” said Rouhani, stressing that the issues raised “belong in the past, dating 18 to 20 years ago.”
It is not clear what effect the new resolution will have on the nuclear deal but Iran has threatened unspecified consequences.
The IAEA maintains that of the two sites that Iran has blocked access to, one was partially demolished in 2004. At the other, the agency said it observed activities “consistent with efforts to sanitize” the facility from July 2019 onward.
A third site, the IAEA said, had undergone “extensive sanitization and leveling” in 2003 and 2004 and there would be no verification value in inspecting it.
The watchdog also said Iran has “not engaged in any substantive discussions” with the IAEA for almost a year to answer the agency’s questions about possible undeclared nuclear material and activities. The agency also said that Iran has continued to increase its stockpiles of enriched uranium and remains in violation of the nuclear deal.
In 2018, President Donald trump pulled the US out of the deal and reimposed sanctions on Iran. Tehran has since then hoped that the other signatories to the deal — Germany, France, Britain, Russia and China, which have been struggling to save the accord — would increase economic incentives to make up for hard-hitting sanctions imposed by Washington after the US withdrawal.
Iran accuses the US of trying to prevent that by pressuring the countries still in the deal. Meanwhile, Iran has been violating its restrictions, including the amount of uranium it can enrich and the purity of enrichment, to try to pressure the five countries.
“We expect the agency to preserve its independence,” Rouhani said.


Data leak reveals true scale of Iran’s COVID-19 crisis

Updated 18 min 49 sec ago

Data leak reveals true scale of Iran’s COVID-19 crisis

  • Iranian outbreak, already the worst in the Middle East, is far more serious than initially reported.
  • Tehran’s cover up of the true virus toll is consistent with their reaction to previous embarrassing incidents.

LONDON: A data leak from within Iran has revealed that the number of deaths caused by COVID-19 is nearly three times higher than the figures reported by the government.

The data, which was passed to the BBC Persian service, shows almost 42,000 people died with COVID-19 symptoms up to July 20, nearly triple the 14,405 reported by its health ministry.

The number of infections is also far higher than that admitted by the government: 451,024 as opposed to the 278,827 disclosed by Tehran.

Undercounting cases is common across the world due to limited testing capacity, but the BBC’s information reveals that Iranian authorities reported significantly lower daily numbers, despite having a record of all deaths — suggesting the figures were deliberately suppressed.

 

 

The data leak also shows that the first recorded case of the virus in Iran was on Jan. 22 — a month before the government acknowledged any cases.

Already the center of the Middle East’s virus outbreak, Tehran’s cover-up of early cases and its failure to swiftly act on the outbreak likely accelerated the spread of the virus across the region.

The BBC received the data from an anonymous source, who told them they shared the data to “shed light on the truth” and to end “political games” over the epidemic.

The data supplied includes details of daily admissions to hospitals across Iran, including names, age, gender, symptoms, date and length of periods spent in hospital, and underlying conditions patients might have.

The overall trend of cases and deaths in the leaked data is similar to official reports, but different in size.

Dr Nouroldin Pirmoazzen, a former Iranian MP who was an official at the health ministry and is now living in the US, told the BBC that the government was “anxious and fearful of the truth” when COVID-19 hit Iran.

He said: “The government was afraid that the poor and the unemployed would take to the streets.”

The Iranian health ministry maintains that the country’s reports to the World Health Organization on the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths are “transparent” and “far from any deviations.”

The cover-up of the true scale of their COVID-19 crisis is not unusual behaviour from the regime. A number of incidents have brought a similar response in 2020 alone.

In January, Iran shot down a Ukrainian jet near Tehran, killing all passengers on board. The regime hid its actions for three days, only acknowledging wrongdoing as public pressure mounted through protests.

Then Iranian nuclear and military facilities were the target of a series of sabotages, explosions, and cyberattacks, but Tehran has attempted to conceal what happened at virtually every step of the way.