Iran: Inspectors May No Longer Get Nuclear Sites Images

DUBAI (Reuters/Washington Post) -
Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf (C) is surrounded by a group of lawmakers after being elected as Speaker of the parliament, in Tehran, Iran, in 2020. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi, File)

Iran‘s parliament Speaker said on Sunday that a three-month monitoring deal between Tehran and the U.N. nuclear watchdog had expired as of Saturday, Iran‘s state media reported, adding that the agency would no longer be allowed access to images of nuclear sites.

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Grossi, is to hold a news conference on Sunday afternoon. He is in talks with Iran on extending the monitoring arrangement, which could affect talks between Tehran and six powers to revive the 2015 nuclear deal, the IAEA said.

“From May 22 and with the end of the three-month agreement, the agency will have no access to data collected by cameras inside the nuclear facilities agreed under the agreement,” state media quoted Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf as saying. He did not say whether the images would be deleted. Iran began gradually breaching terms of the pact with world powers after then-President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the deal in 2018 and re-imposed sanctions.

The pact aims to keep Iran from being able to make nuclear arms, which Tehran says it has never wanted to build.

To pressure President Joe Biden’s administration to return to the nuclear pact and lift sanctions, Iran’s hard line-dominated parliament passed a law last year obliging the government to end implementation of the Additional Protocol from February.

Under the 2015 deal, Iran agreed to observe the IAEA’s Additional Protocol that permits short-notice inspections at locations not declared to the agency – to bolster confidence that nuclear work is not being covertly put to military ends.

To give diplomacy a chance, the watchdog and Iran agreed in February to keep “necessary” IAEA monitoring and verification activities in the Islamic Republic, although Tehran would reduce cooperation with the agency.

Qalibaf told parliament’s open session, aired by state media, that Iran‘s ultimate authority, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, backed the decision. “Yesterday it was discussed and the decision was made. The law passed by the parliament will be implemented. The supreme leader has underlined the importance of this issue as well,” Qalibaf said.

The Washington Post, quoting Iranian state TV who cited a person close to the country’s Supreme National Security Council, reported that Iran is likely to extend a U.N. nuclear inspections agreement by one more month, buying diplomats time to revive a landmark deal that would usher a return of the Persian Gulf nation to world oil markets in exchange for curbs on its atomic work.

An extension of the interim arrangement with the International Atomic Energy Agency, which expired on Saturday, would avert a potential crisis in talks involving world powers and set the stage for them to finalize the return of the U.S. to the 2015 nuclear accord that former President Donald Trump abandoned three years ago.