Iran to Reinstall Cameras at Nuclear Site but With Limited Access, U.N. Watchdog Says

The United Nations' International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Iran agreed Wednesday to return cameras to the country's Karaj nuclear facility, but with some limits on what footage the agency can see.

The IAEA, tasked with monitoring the safety of member countries' nuclear technologies, had been viewing a manufacturing facility for centrifuge parts through security cameras until June, when an attack on the site left the cameras damaged. The Iranian government accused Israel of the "sabotage attack."

Since June, Iran had not allowed the IAEA to replace the cameras. IAEA Director-General Rafael Mariano Grossi told the Associated Press on Tuesday of the negative effects that could come from a limited view of the Karaj facility.

"If the international community through us, through the IAEA, is not seeing clearly how many centrifuges or what is the capacity that they may have…what you have is a very blurred image," Grossi said. "It will give you the illusion of the real image. But not the real image. This is why this is so important."

According to the IAEA, the cameras will be reinstalled "in the coming days." At the moment, Iran is keeping all the memory cards holding the camera footage.

"The agency and Iran will continue to work on remaining outstanding safeguards issues with the aim of resolving them," the IAEA said.

International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Mariano Grossi
The United Nations' nuclear watchdog and Iran reached a deal Wednesday to reinstall cameras damaged at an Iranian site that manufactures centrifuge parts, though inspectors remain limited on what footage they can access. Above, International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi gives an interview to the Associated Press in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, on Tuesday, December 14. Kamran Jebreili, File/AP Photo

Iranian media first reported the deal without citing a source. Grossi later tweeted out a statement detailing the arrangement.

"This is important for verification under the Iran nuclear deal, and work will continue to address other outstanding safeguards issues," Grossi wrote.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian reportedly said earlier Wednesday that Iran had "reached a good agreement" with the IAEA.

Tehran blamed the Karaj assault on Israel amid a widening regional shadow war since former President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew America from Iran's landmark nuclear accord with world powers.

Grossi dismissed as "simply absurd" an Iranian allegation that saboteurs used the IAEA's cameras in the attack on the Karaj centrifuge site. Tehran has offered no evidence to support the claim, though it's another sign of the friction between inspectors and Iran.

As part of Wednesday's deal, the IAEA said it would "make available a sample camera and related technical information to Iran for analysis by its relevant security and judiciary officials, in the presence of the agency inspectors."

However, Iran still will keep all recordings from the cameras—part of another ongoing dispute between the agency and Tehran sparked by the nuclear deal's collapse.

Negotiations continue in Vienna over trying to restore the nuclear deal. However, Iran under hard-line President Ebrahim Raisi has taken a maximalist position in negotiations.

Anxiety is growing among European nations at the negotiating table.

"Without swift progress, in light of Iran's fast-forwarding of its nuclear program, the [deal] will very soon become an empty shell," they recently warned.

The U.S. has remained outside of direct talks since abandoning the accord.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Iran, nuclear plant
The International Atomic Energy Agency will soon reinstall cameras at Iran's Karaj nuclear facility, though access will be limited. Above, a picture taken on November 10, 2019, shows an Iranian flag at Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant during an official ceremony to start work on a second reactor at the facility. Photo by Atta Kenare/AFP via Getty Images

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