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JEDDAH: Authorities in Tehran were told on Tuesday to explain the presence of uranium particles at three undeclared nuclear sites in Iran after a critical report by the UN nuclear watchdog.

The latest report by the International Atomic Energy Agency said Iran had not credibly answered long-standing questions about apparent nuclear activity at the sites in Marivan, Varamin and Turquzabad.

“We call on Iran to respond without delay to the questions and needs of the IAEA under its safeguards agreement,” France’s Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday.

The dispute may herald a new diplomatic clash when the agency’s 35-nation board of governors meets next week.

If Western powers seek a resolution criticizing Tehran, it could deal a further blow to stalled eforts to revive the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.

Those powers have until now repeatedly shied away from admonishing Iran at the board on the same issue, because of fears that it could jeopardize the nuclear talks in Vienna.

However, with those talks stalled and hopes fading for a revived nuclear deal, the French Foreign Ministry said: “We are in close consultation with our partners on the follow-up to be given to this situation at the next board of governors.”

Iran and the agency agreed in March on an approach for resolving the issue of the sites. Under that agreement, agency chief Rafael Grossi is due to “report his conclusions” to the watchdog’s board of governors next week. 

While most of the activities concerned are thought to date back to the early 2000s, one of the sites, in the Turquzabad district of Tehran, may have been used for storing uranium as recently as 2018.

Iran said the agency’s latest report was “unfair,” and blamed Israeli influence.

“It is feared that the political pressure exerted by the Zionist regime and some other actors has caused the normal path of the agency’s reports to change from technical to political,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said.

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Iran’s representative to the IAEA, Mohammad Reza Ghaebi, said the report “does not reflect Iran’s extensive cooperation with the agency.”

He said: “Iran considers this ap- proach unconstructive to the current close relations and cooperation between the country and the IAEA. The agency should be aware of the destructive consequences of publishing such onesided reports.”

Meanwhile, Israel on Tuesday accused Iran of stealing documents from the IAEA to hide evidence of its plans to build a nuclear bomb.

“Iran stole classified documents ... and used that information to systematically evade nuclear probes,” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said.

“How do we know? Because we got our hands on Iran’s deception plan.”

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