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UN watchdog installs new cameras in Iran centrifuge workshop


The United Nations atomic watchdog said it installed surveillance cameras to monitor a new centrifuge workshop at Iran’s Natanz site after a request from Tehran

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – The United Nations atomic watchdog said on Thursday it installed surveillance cameras to monitor a new centrifuge workshop at Iran’s Natanz underground site after a request from Tehran, even as diplomatic efforts to restore its tattered nuclear deal appear to have stalled.

The start of work at the new workshop comes after Iran’s Karaj centrifuge facility was the target of what Iran described as a sabotage attack in June. Natanz herself has been targeted twice in sabotage attacks amid uncertainty over the nuclear deal, assaults Tehran has blamed on Israel.

The Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency said it installed cameras and removed seals from machinery in the workshop on Tuesday. These machines will be used to make centrifuge tubes and rotor bellows, crucial parts for devices that spin at very high speeds to enrich uranium gas.

On Wednesday, “Iran informed the agency that the machines would start operating in the new workshop on the same day,” the IAEA said in a statement. He did not specify the location of Natanz’s workshop, a large facility that includes laboratories and enrichment halls buried underground to protect them from airstrikes. Iran has held IAEA surveillance camera footage since February 2021 as a pressure tactic to also reinstate the nuclear deal.

Iran did not immediately acknowledge the installation of the cameras, but had previously said it would move the factory from Karaj to Natanz.

Natanz became a flashpoint of Western fears over Iran’s nuclear program in 2002, when satellite photos showed Iran was building an underground facility at the site, some 200 kilometers (125 miles) south of the capital , Tehran. Iran has long insisted that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes. However, US intelligence agencies and the IAEA believe Iran had an organized military nuclear program until 2003.

In July 2020, Natanz found herself the target of a sabotage that blew up a centrifuge assembly building. In April 2021, a sabotage in its underground halls destroyed centrifuges. Iran has since started building a new extension of Natanz in a nearby mountain, which is likely to further harden the site.

Israel, also suspected of murdering a scientist who uncovered Iran’s military nuclear program, has hinted that it carried out the Natanz attacks.

The camera installation comes as efforts to restore the nuclear deal, which has seen Tehran limit its enrichment for the lifting of economic sanctions, appear to have stalled amid an Iranian demand for America to withdraw the Guardians of the Revolution from the list of terrorist organizations.

Despite Iran’s repeated claims that a separate deal would see billions of dollars in assets unfrozen, the State Department reiterated that no deal is imminent on a prisoner swap or the nuclear deal.

“Our partners have not released these restricted funds to Iran, nor has the United States authorized or approved any such transfer of restricted funds to Iran,” the State Department said Wednesday. .

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Follow Jon Gambrell on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jongambrellAP.



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