Iran briefly held an inspector for the U.N. nuclear watchdog in the Islamic Republic and seized her travel documents, diplomats familiar with the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) work said on Wednesday, some describing it as harassment.
The incident appears to be the first of its kindsince Tehran's landmark deal with major powers was struck in 2015, imposingrestrictions on Iran's nuclear activities in exchange for the lifting ofinternational sanctions.
It comes at a time of heightened frictions betweenIran and the West, with Tehran breaching the deal's restrictions step-by-stepin response to Washington's withdrawal from the deal and renewed sanctions. TheIAEA is also in transition, with a new chief due to take office next month.
The issue is due to be discussed at a meeting of theIAEA's 35-nation Board of Governors on Thursday convened at short notice todiscuss "two safeguards matters" not specified in the agenda, whichwas circulated on Monday.
"The agency wants to show how seriously they aretaking this. It is a potentially damaging precedent," one Western officialsaid.
Three diplomats familiar with the agency's work saidthe female inspector had her travel documents taken, and two said she wasbriefly held while working in Iran.
One of the diplomats said the incident occurred atIran's enrichment site at Natanz last week. Another one also said the incidenttook place at Natanz.
"There is a real concern that it will harm how(the IAEA) carry out their inspections in the future," a European diplomatsaid.
The nuclear deal, which the IAEA is policing, allowsfor 130-150 inspectors from the agency designated for Iran.
An IAEA spokesman and Iran's ambassador to the agencydeclined to comment.