The chief inspector of the UN nuclear agency has stepped down unexpectedly, a few days after US President Donald Trump declared that Washington withdrew from the 2015 landmark nuclear deal with Iran.
A spokesperson for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) announced in a statement on Friday that Tero Varjoranta, a 61-year-old Finn, “has resigned effective 11 May 2018,” without giving more details regarding the reasons behind his sudden departure, adding, however, that the agency’s “safeguards activities will continue to be carried out in a highly professional manner.”
Since October 2013, Varjoranta had been a deputy director general of the atomic agency and head of its Department of Safeguards, which verifies countries’ compliance with the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
The statement added that IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano had appointed “Massimo Aparo, acting director, Office for Verification in Iran, as acting deputy director general and head of the Department of Safeguards, effective immediately.”
The spokesperson, however, said the replacement had been made on a temporary basis and a permanent replacement would be appointed as soon as possible.
Varjoranta’s resignation came three days after Trump declared that his country was pulling out of the Iran nuclear agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), saying Washington would not only reinstate the anti-Iran sanctions lifted as part of the deal, but would also “be instituting the highest level of economic” bans against the Islamic Republic.
The JCPOA came out of years of negotiations between Iran on one side and the P5+1 group of countries — the US, UK, France, Russia and China plus Germany — on the other, in July 2015.
Trump made no mention in his Tuesday announcement about any act by Iran that could be interpreted as a violation of the JCPOA’s terms. He only lashed out at the hard-fought deal, saying it had “weak” limits on Tehran’s nuclear program.
A day after Trump’s controversial decision, which triggered international condemnations, the IAEA issued a statement, reiterating that Iran is in full compliance with the terms of the JCPOA. The statement, however, contradicted Trump’s claim and said, “Iran is subject to the world’s most robust nuclear verification regime under the JCPOA, which is a significant verification gain.”
The JCPOA went into effect in January 2016. The IAEA has since confirmed Iran’s full compliance in numerous quarterly reports.
Washington’s five other partners in the deal have already taken turns to denounce Trump’s attack on the multilateral Iran deal, vowing that they would stick to their commitments under the accord despite the US withdrawal.
Furthermore, the United Nations and the European Union have warned Washington against any bid to sabotage the deal. They call the JCPOA a pillar of regional and international peace and stability, and reiterate the multilateral pact cannot be simply terminated by a single party.