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Iran Again Accuses UN Watchdog Inspector Of Industrial Sabotage Plan

Head of the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran (AEOI), Ali Akbar Salehi speaks at a press conference following a visit at the nuclear power plant of Natanz, November 4, 2019

Head of the Iran Atomic Energy Organization (AEO), Ali-Akbar Salehi, has once again accused an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspector of intending "industrial sabotage" in an Iranian nuclear facility.

Earlier, on November 7, Tehran had admitted that it expelled the "unnamed" IAEA inspector, after briefly holding her.

Speaking to the state-owned website Young Journalists Club (YJC), Salehi insisted on November 30 that the inspector was carrying "suspicious materials" when arrested. The incident occurred on October 28 at an Iranian nuclear site near the city of Natanz, 334 kilometers (approximately 207 miles) south of the capital city, Tehran.

Natanz facility is considered as the heart of the Islamic Republic's uranium enrichment program.

However, Salehi admitted, "As a rule, inspectors enjoy diplomatic immunity as ambassadors do while on a mission, and international laws and regulations explicitly stipulate such issues."

Nevertheless, the Islamic Republic security forces arrested the inspector canceled her credentials, confiscated her travel documents, and denied her entering Natanz facility. Iran claimed at the time that traces "of an explosive material were found".

Two days later, under international pressure, the inspector left Iran.

Immediately after Reuters disclosed the incident on November 6, several diplomats at the IAEA described the arrest as "harassment" that should be addressed.

The United Nations nuclear watchdog and Western powers sharply criticized Iran on November 7 for preventing one of the agency's inspectors from leaving the country in late October.

The U.S. envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency Jackie Wolcott said detaining the inspector was an "outrageous provocation" by Iran, and the agency itself said it was unacceptable.

Iran's envoy to the IAEA, for his part, told reporters the inspector was stopped because she tested positive for traces of explosives but then no longer did after going to the toilet while waiting for a further search, which prompted further investigation.

Iran also circulated a memo to member states describing in detail its version of the incident.

According to Iran's statement, "The inspector sneaked out to go to the restroom" and that "alarming traces" were found on a toilet bowl and parts of exit piping, later dismantled for checks.

Salehi on Saturday insisted that checking inspectors is a routine procedure across the world.

"Of course, IAEA inspectors must be checked when they enter Iranian sites. This is naturally done while inspecting nuclear facilities all around the world, and this law is not only related to Iran," he reiterated.

"During the check, done by machines, one of the inspectors found to be carrying suspicious materials," he added.

Furthermore, Salehi claimed that when the inspector was asked about the "sensitive materials" on her, she failed to present a "convincible" response.

"In the end, all the events were documented and filmed, but we could not keep the inspector for long as she had diplomatic immunity," Salehi maintained.

Furthermore, Salehi complained about other “sabotage" in Iran's nuclear facilities.

"We have a site in Iran where we keep faulty machinery. And we buy many of the devices (spare parts) from abroad. But they sabotage these devices so that we would face problems when operating our machinery," he noted.

"They used the malware Stuxnet against us. They committed industrial sabotage against us and sold faulty equipment to us. Still, we were vigilant in that regard," said Salehi.

IAEA has repeatedly dismissed Iran's claim about the incident.