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IAEA warns of 'fatal blow' to nuclear deal as Iran removes its cameras

Empty chairs are seen in front of the logo of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) prior to a meeting in Vienna on 1 August 2019. [HANS PUNZ/AFP via Getty Images]
Empty chairs are seen in front of the logo of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) prior to a meeting in Vienna on 1 August 2019. [HANS PUNZ/AFP via Getty Images]

Iran, on Thursday, dealt a near-fatal blow to chances of reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, as it began removing essentially all the International Atomic Energy Agency monitoring equipment installed under the deal, IAEA chief, Rafael Grossi said, Reuters reports.

Iran had warned of retaliation if the IAEA's 35-nation Board of Governors passed a resolution drafted by the United States, France, Britain and Germany criticising Tehran for its continued failure to explain uranium traces found at undeclared sites. The resolution was passed by a crushing majority late on Thursday.

Iran informed the Agency overnight that it plans to remove 27 IAEA cameras and other equipment as of Thursday, which was "basically all" the extra monitoring equipment installed under the 2015 deal going beyond Iran's core obligations to the Agency, Grossi told a news conference called at short notice.

That leaves a window of opportunity of three to four weeks to restore some of the monitoring that is being scrapped, or else the IAEA will lose the ability to piece together all or essentially all Iran's most important nuclear activities and material, and restoring the deal requires that, Grossi said.

READ: US reluctance to lift all sanctions main obstacle to reviving 2015 pact –¬†Iranian official

"I think this would be a fatal blow (to reviving the deal)," Grossi said of what would happen if nothing were done within that window of opportunity.

Indirect talks between Iran and the United States on reviving the 2015 deal are already stalled and have not been held since March.

Since then-President Donald Trump pulled Washington out of the deal and re-imposed sanctions against Tehran in 2018, Iran has breached the deal's limits on its nuclear activities, enriching uranium to close to weapons-grade, using more advanced centrifuges and swelling its stock of enriched uranium.

While Western powers warn it is getting ever closer to being able to sprint towards making a nuclear bomb, Iran denies having such intentions.

As part of its erosion of the deal's nuclear measures, Iran had already held onto the data recorded by the extra monitoring equipment since February of last year, meaning the IAEA can only hope it will be able to access it at a later date. Grossi said it was not clear what would happen to that data now.

He added, however, that more than 40 IAEA cameras would continue to operate as part of the core monitoring of Iran's activities that predates the 2015 deal.

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