Iran is accused of trying to block monitoring of its nuclear facilities

Iran has been subjecting international nuclear inspectors to invasive physical searches in an intimidation campaign designed to block monitoring of sensitive nuclear facilities, diplomats have warned ahead of nuclear talks.

iplomats from Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia will meet an Iranian delegation in a hotel in Vienna tomorrow for a fresh effort to stop Tehran developing a nuclear bomb.

They will try to persuade Iran to return to compliance with a 2015 nuclear agreement — and will then shuttle across town to another hotel to persuade a separate US delegation to ease sanctions in exchange.

It will be a delicate and laborious process that could run well into the new year.

But officials warned that an apparent effort to block access to the International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA), the United Nations atomic energy watchdog, which has a mandate to inspect compliance with the nuclear non-proliferation treaty to which Iran is a signatory, shows that time to make a deal is rapidly running out.

Inspectors have been subject to “intimidation through excessively invasive physical searches”, Corinne Kitsell, Britain’s ambassador to the IAEA board, said on Friday.

“Iran’s new security procedures are inconsistent with both internationally accepted security practices and the agreement on the privileges and immunities of the IAEA,. They prevent IAEA inspectors from being able to effectively discharge their functions under the NPT safeguards agreement,” she told an IAEA board meeting.

The warning was issued after Rafael Grossi, the head of the IAEA, returned from a trip to Tehran and said he had made no progress on several disputes, including access to a workshop that makes components for centrifuges needed for high-level enrichment.

“We are close to the point where I would not be able to guarantee continuity of knowledge,” he said on Wednesday.

The IAEA said in a report earlier this month that Iran had stockpiled at least 114kg of 20pc enriched uranium and 17.7kg of 60pc enriched uranium.

Britain, France and Germany said in response that Iran had “no plausible civilian justification” for enrichment to such concentrations and warned that such activities are “irreversibly” reducing the counter-proliferation elements of the deal.

They said the stockpile, if it is further enriched, is already large enough to produce “more than one” nuclear weapon, and that the treaty designed to avert such a scenario is rapidly losing its “counter-proliferation” effects.

The remarks will put further pressure on efforts to revive the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, a multilateral agreement between Iran, the US, Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China and the European Union.

It provided Iran with relief from international economic sanctions in exchange for curtailing its nuclear programme, which Western powers feared was aimed at producing a nuclear weapon.

Telegraph Media Group Limited [2021]

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