UN's Nuclear Chief Pushes Iran to End Block on International Inspectors 

Rafael Grossi, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) speaks during an interview ahead of the 78th United Nations General Assembly and Climate Ambition Summit in New York on September 18, 2023. (AFP)
Rafael Grossi, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) speaks during an interview ahead of the 78th United Nations General Assembly and Climate Ambition Summit in New York on September 18, 2023. (AFP)
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UN's Nuclear Chief Pushes Iran to End Block on International Inspectors 

Rafael Grossi, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) speaks during an interview ahead of the 78th United Nations General Assembly and Climate Ambition Summit in New York on September 18, 2023. (AFP)
Rafael Grossi, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) speaks during an interview ahead of the 78th United Nations General Assembly and Climate Ambition Summit in New York on September 18, 2023. (AFP)

The UN nuclear chief said Monday he asked to meet Iran’s president on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly to try to reverse Tehran's uncalled for” ban on “a very sizable chunk” of the agency’s inspectors.

Rafael Grossi stressed that the Iranian government’s removal of many agency cameras and electronic monitoring systems installed by the International Atomic Energy Agency also make it impossible to give assurances about the country’s nuclear program.

Grossi said he wrote to President Ebrahim Raisi telling him it is “very important” to meet about Tehran’s targeting of inspectors, including “some of the best and most experienced.”

“I’m waiting for an answer," Grossi said in an interview with The Associated Press on Monday.

He also warned that escalating fighting is increasing the danger of a nuclear accident at Europe’s largest nuclear plant in Ukraine. Grossi said he is seeking to re-establish a dialogue with North Korea, which expelled UN nuclear weapons inspectors in 2009.

And he invited China to see how the IAEA tests treated water released from Japan’s Fukushima Daichi nuclear plant, which led Beijing to ban Japanese seafood.

QUESTIONING WHY IRAN IS PUTTING UP ROADBLOCKS TO INSPECTION The IAEA chief said Iran has the right to determine who enters the country, but he said he didn’t understand why Tehran was withdrawing authorization for a “good number” of inspectors, which is “making my job much more difficult." He called it a step in the wrong direction.

“It’s very difficult to get the expertise to go to very sophisticated uranium enrichment facilities with thousands of (centrifuge) cascades, lots of tubing and piping, and it requires ... a lot of experience,” he explained. “So, when you start limiting that ... I have to say, this is not good. Stop it!”

Iran has denied impeding the work of IAEA inspectors though it has also been years since its experts have been able to examine surveillance footage.

The Vienna-based IAEA reported earlier this month that Iran had slowed the pace of enriching uranium to nearly weapons-grade levels. That was seen as a sign that Tehran was trying to ease tensions after years of strain with the United States, and one that took place as the rivals were negotiating a prisoner swap and the release of billions in frozen Iranian assets — which all took place Monday.

Since Iran started limiting the actions of IAEA inspectors a little over a year ago, Grossi said, the agency hasn’t been able to see how many centrifuges and parts needed to assemble them are being produced.

So when the IAEA has to draw a baseline of where Iran’s nuclear program is, he said, “How do I do it?"

AN UPDATE ON OTHER NUCLEAR HOT SPOTS Grossi said military operations are increasing near Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which is on the front line of the Ukrainian counteroffensive. The June 6 destruction of the Kakhovka Dam in Russian-controlled territory led to deadly flooding, ruined crops in one of the world’s breadbaskets and lowered the level of water used to cool Zaporizhzhia’s reactors.

“Complications are adding up,” Grossi said, “and making the safety of the plant very, very fragile.”

Initially he said he urged both sides to adopt a no-fire zone outside the plant. That became impossible. So he has been urging the Ukrainians and Russians not to attack any nuclear plant.

Zaporizhzhia is in a Russian-controlled area but is staffed mainly by Ukrainians. There are also some Russian experts and IAEA inspectors who from time to time have acted as “a buffer” and defused some tense situations, Grossi said.

The IAEA chief called North Korea’s growing nuclear program “one of the most difficult issues we have in front of us.” Since the expulsion of IAEA inspectors in 2009, Grossi said, the agency has followed what Pyongyang has done from afar. “North Korea has become a de facto nuclear weapon possessor state," he said, and that is “not a good development.”

Grossi said North Korea’s program, including enrichment and construction of new reactors, has been growing without international monitoring or assessment of its safety. He wouldn't say who the IAEA is engaging with to try to “turn the page” with North Korea but did say: “I am optimistic."

As for China’s concerns about the water being discharged from Japan's Fukushima Daichi nuclear plant, Grossi said IAEA daily monitoring shows the level of tritium, a radionucleide that could be problematic, is extremely low.

The IAEA chief said South Korea also had concerns about the water being discharged from Fukushima, which was damaged by a massive earthquake and tsunami in 2011. He said he spoke to the president and foreign minister, and South Korea sent experts to see how the monitoring of the discharged water is being carried out.

Grossi said he wrote to Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi a few days ago making a similar offer to explain the IAEA’s activities. He expressed hope that he could meet Wang in New York “to dispel doubts. I'm eager and available.”



Foreign Leaders React to Biden Ending Reelection Campaign

 Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivers remarks at a Chief of the Defense Staff change of command ceremony between Gen. Wayne Eyre and Gen. Jennie Carignan at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa, on Thursday, July 18, 2024. (The Canadian Press via AP)
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivers remarks at a Chief of the Defense Staff change of command ceremony between Gen. Wayne Eyre and Gen. Jennie Carignan at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa, on Thursday, July 18, 2024. (The Canadian Press via AP)
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Foreign Leaders React to Biden Ending Reelection Campaign

 Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivers remarks at a Chief of the Defense Staff change of command ceremony between Gen. Wayne Eyre and Gen. Jennie Carignan at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa, on Thursday, July 18, 2024. (The Canadian Press via AP)
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivers remarks at a Chief of the Defense Staff change of command ceremony between Gen. Wayne Eyre and Gen. Jennie Carignan at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa, on Thursday, July 18, 2024. (The Canadian Press via AP)

Following are some reactions from foreign leaders and officials to US President Joe Biden's decision on Sunday to end his campaign to seek reelection in November:

CANADIAN PRIME MINISTER JUSTIN TRUDEAU

"I’ve known President Biden for years. He’s a great man, and everything he does is guided by his love for his country. As President, he is a partner to Canadians — and a true friend. To President Biden and the First Lady: thank you."

GERMAN CHANCELLOR OLAF SCHOLZ, ON X

"Joe Biden has achieved a great deal: for his country, for Europe, for the world. Thanks to him, transatlantic cooperation is close, NATO is strong and the USA is a good and reliable partner for us. His decision not to run again deserves recognition."

BRITISH PRIME MINISTER KEIR STARMER:

"I respect President Biden's decision and I look forward to us working together during the remainder of his presidency," Starmer said in a statement.

"I know that, as he has done throughout his remarkable career, President Biden will have made his decision based on what he believes is in the best interests of the American people."

ISRAELI MINISTER OF DEFENSE YOAV GALLANT

"Thank you President Joe Biden, for your unwavering support of Israel over the years. Your steadfast backing, especially during the war, has been invaluable. We are grateful for your leadership and friendship."

SPANISH PRIME MINISTER PEDRO SANCHEZ ON X:

"All my admiration and recognition for the brave and dignified decision of the president @JoeBiden. Thanks to its determination and leadership, the US overcame the economic crisis after the pandemic and the serious assault on the Capitol and has been exemplary in its support for Ukraine in the face of Putin's Russian aggression. A great gesture from a great president who has always fought for democracy and freedom."

IRISH PRIME MINISTER SIMON HARRIS:

"On behalf of the people and government of Ireland. I ... would like to thank you Mr President for your global leadership and your friendship as you make your announcement that you will not stand in the 2024 US Presidential election," Harris said in a statement.

"Joe Biden, in all the offices he has held, has always been an unwavering voice and passionate worker for peace on the island of Ireland and our country owes him a great debt for this."

KREMLIN SPOKESMAN DMITRY PESKOV, SPEAKING TO SHOT NEWS OUTLET:

"The elections are still four months away, and that is a long period of time in which a lot can change. We need to be patient and carefully monitor what happens. The priority for us is the special military operation," Peskov said, referring to the war in Ukraine.

NORWEGIAN PRIME MINISTER JONAS GAHR STOERE:

"I respect President Joe Biden's decision not to run for re-election. He justifies the decision by saying that he wants to put the country before himself. That reasoning commands respect," Stoere said in a statement to Reuters.

"Joe Biden has been one of America's most prominent politicians over several decades, and a president who has carried out several important reforms. I particularly commend him for his leadership in NATO and look forward to working with Biden as the president of the United States until the end of January."

POLISH PRIME MINISTER DONALD TUSK ON X:

"Mr. President @JoeBiden, many times you have made difficult decisions that have made Poland, America, and the world safer, and democracy and freedom stronger. I know that you were guided by the same principles when announcing your latest decision. Perhaps the most difficult one in your life."

CZECH PRIME MINISTER PETR FIALA ON X:

"It is undoubtedly the decision of a statesman who has served his country for decades. It is a responsible and personally difficult step, but it is all the more valuable. I am keeping my fingers crossed for the USA that a good president emerges from the democratic competition of two strong and equal candidates."