Wed, 21 Oct 2020

VIENNA, Sept. 21 (Xinhua) -- Fighting the coronavirus will remain the top priority of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN nuclear watchdog, until the pandemic is finally defeated, said IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi on Monday.

The last 12 months have been "unprecedented" in the history of the IAEA, Grossi said in his opening speech at the 64th IAEA General Conference held here.

"During the lockdown, we continued to implement safeguards throughout the world to prevent any misuse of nuclear material and we launched the largest operation in the agency's history to help countries confront the coronavirus," he said.

Grossi said 1,300 consignments of equipment for virus detection and diagnosis and other supplies have been delivered, or are in transit, to 123 countries.

"Fighting the coronavirus will remain our top priority until the pandemic is finally defeated," he said. "COVID-19 will certainly not be the last pandemic which threatens the world."

For this, Grossi encouraged all member states to support IAEA's initiative of the Zoonotic Disease Integrated Action project, known as ZODIAC, which uses nuclear and nuclear-derived techniques to make the world better prepared for future outbreaks of zoonotic diseases.

Regarding the Iran nuclear issue, he told the conference that the IAEA continues to verify the non-diversion of nuclear material declared by Iran under its Safeguards Agreement.

He welcomed the agreement reached between the IAEA and Iran during his visit to Tehran last month on the resolution of some safeguards implementation issues, and hoped that it "will reinforce cooperation and enhance mutual trust."

The Iran nuclear issue has been back under the spotlight after the U.S. unilaterally re-imposed UN sanctions against Iran. On Saturday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claimed that "sanctions are being re-imposed on Iran pursuant to the snapback process under UN Security Council resolution 2231," which endorsed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA), commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal.

The international community has denounced the unilateral announcement made by the U.S. to re-impose UN sanctions on Iran, saying the attempt is illegitimate and that the U.S. has no right to impose them.

The JCPoA was inked by Iran in July 2015 with Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the U.S., together with the European Union. The U.S., under President Donald Trump, withdrew from the JCPoA in May 2018.

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