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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 18 June 2018

Iran boycotts international summit in Abu Dhabi on peaceful nuclear power

Tehran pulls out from key 64 nation meeting hours after UN inspectors check its compliance on deal to prevent development of nuclear weapons

Seats for an Iranian delegation at a nuclear energy conference sit empty in Abu Dhabi after Iran failed to attend on Monday. Jon Gambrell / AP
Seats for an Iranian delegation at a nuclear energy conference sit empty in Abu Dhabi after Iran failed to attend on Monday. Jon Gambrell / AP

Iran has pulled out of an international peaceful nuclear power conference just hours after a key inspection by the United Nations.

Delegates were due to attend a major summit in Abu Dhabi on Monday but failed to appear at the last minute.

While 64 countries are attending the International Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Power in the 21st Century, which began in the capitol on Monday, Iran is understood to have made a last minute decision to withdraw its delegates.

The decision came just a day after an inspection visit to Tehran by Yukiya Amano, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Speaking in Abu Dhabi, Mr Amato said that UN inspectors monitoring Iran’s civil nuclear energy programme were "discharging their responsibilities without problems” and that Tehran was so far “complaint” with the nuclear deal framework, which restricts its ability to enrich nuclear fuel, in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions.

President Donald Trump has refused to certify the 2015 deal, saying it still leaves Iran with the possibility of developing future nuclear weapons, and has threatened to impose fresh US sanctions.

The US Congress has 60 days to decide if it will bring in new sanctions, with the Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei saying he will tear up the deal if the US pulls out.

Mr Amato refused to be drawn on what the IAEA might do if this happens, saying the organisation "does not speculate” and that he had “no comment on the future actions of the president of the United States".

He also insisted that IAEA would play no direct role in taking action against any country breaking its rules, saying the matter would be referred directly to the UN Security Council.

Under the nuclear deal framework, Iran is banned from enriching nuclear fuel to the level where it could be used for weapons, and must convert its current enrichment facility to a civil research centre.

Iran must also export spent fuel from its nuclear power stations without reprocessing – another possible source of material for nuclear weapons.

President Trump has called 2015 agreement “one of the worst” the US had agreed to, saying: “We will not continue down a path whose predictable conclusion is more violence, more terror and the very real threat of Iran’s nuclear breakout.”

Earlier this month Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, the Foreign Minister of the UAE, warned the UN General Assembly that Iran was continuing to develop its nuclear programme in a way that “violates the letter and spirit of that agreement".

“Therefore we support enhanced controls on Iran’s nuclear programme and continued assessment of the agreement and its provisions,” he said.

The three-day Ministerial Conference in Abu Dhabi is the first of its kind to be held in the Middle East, with 700 delegates attending.

It is hosted by the UAE Government through the Ministry of Energy and Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR).

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The UAE is developing its own civil nuclear power programme, with the first reactor at the Bakarah Power Station due to begin producing electricity in the New Year.

The UAE’s safety and regulatory standards have been praised by the IAEA, which has carried out regular inspections.

In his opening speech to the conference, Suhail Al Mazroui, the Minister of Energy and Industry, said that nuclear energy was crucial for the UAE to meet its long term development plans by “ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all."

"Since embarking on the UAE Peaceful Nuclear Energy Programme almost 10 years ago, our nation has made great strides and achieved significant steps in the development of its nuclear power programme and related infrastructure," he said.

"Respecting international obligations in the areas of security and non-proliferation are a must for any country developing a peaceful nuclear energy programme.“