VIENNA (Reuters) - The United Nations’ nuclear watchdog has set up a specialised Iran Task Force to handle its inspections and investigation of the Islamic state’s disputed atomic activities, an internal document showed on Wednesday.
The brief announcement by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), addressed to its staff, appeared to be an attempt to focus and streamline its handling of the sensitive Iran file by concentrating experts and other resources in one unit.
The Vienna-based U.N. agency, which regularly inspects Iran’s nuclear sites, has voiced growing concern over the last year of possible military dimensions to the country’s nuclear programme. Tehran says its nuclear work is entirely peaceful.
The IAEA and Iran failed on Friday to strike a deal aimed at allaying concerns about Tehran’s nuclear programme and unblock a long-stalled agency probe into suspected nuclear weapons research in the Islamic Republic.
Bellicose rhetoric from some Israeli politicians has fanned speculation Israel might hit Iran’s nuclear sites before the November U.S. presidential vote. Washington has said there is still time for diplomatic pressure to work, but it might be drawn into any war between the two Middle East foes.
Diplomatic sources say Iran has installed many more uranium enrichment centrifuges at Fordow, a fortified underground site and a likely target in any attack. Refined uranium can have both civilian and military purposes, depending on the level of enrichment.
The internal IAEA statement said the Iran Task Force would be part of the agency’s department of safeguards, which carries out inspections around the world to make sure nuclear material is not diverted for military purposes.
It said the unit would “perform functions related” to the implementation of the IAEA’s safeguards agreement with Iran - which includes monitoring of its atomic sites - as well as “relevant provisions” of resolutions by the agency’s 35-nation board and the U.N. Security Council.
The IAEA board and the Security Council in New York have repeatedly called on Iran to curb its nuclear enrichment programme and open it up to unfettered IAEA inspections.
“Staff members are hereby informed that the Director General (Yukiya Amano) has approved the establishment in the Department of Safeguards of the Iran Task Force,” the statement said.
Reporting by Fredrik Dahl; Editing by Andrew Heavens