Tehran, Iran (AP) – Iran has officially started restricting international inspections of its nuclear facilities, state television reported on Tuesday, in a bid to put pressure on European countries and the administration of US President Joe Biden to lift economic sanctions and reinstate the 2015 nuclear deal.
The state television report gave few details beyond confirming that Iran had followed through on its threat to cut back on cooperation with International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors.
Iran has said it plans to end its implementation of the “additional protocol,” a confidential agreement reached between Tehran and the IAEA under the landmark nuclear deal that grants UN inspectors powers. increased to visit nuclear facilities and monitor the Iranian program.
It is not clear exactly how access will be limited. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the IAEA would not be able to access its network of surveillance cameras at nuclear sites. Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, Tehran’s civilian nuclear agency, has promised to keep the footage for three months and then turn it over to the IAEA – but only if sanctions are granted.
Almost three years ago, former US President Donald Trump unilaterally pulled America out of the nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions against Iran that crippled its economy.
To step up pressure on the Biden administration, Iran has announced gradual violations of the 2015 agreement. In recent weeks, Iran has started enriching uranium up to 20% purity, a technical step far from military grade levels. He also began to run advanced centrifuges and to produce uranium metal, a component of a nuclear warhead.
On Monday, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei signaled that Iran would refuse to surrender to US pressure on its nuclear program. Khamenei said Iran could enrich uranium up to 60% purity if necessary, but reiterated that the country bans nuclear weapons. Tehran has long insisted that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, such as power generation and medical research.
The escalation on Tuesday follows an emergency weekend by IAEA director general Rafael Grossi in Tehran to negotiate inspection restrictions. As part of a temporary deal, Grossi said the agency would keep the same number of inspectors on the ground.
But restrictions imposed by Iran will affect the inspectors’ ability to conduct so-called “snapshot” inspections of nuclear sites, Grossi said. Iran blocking access to IAEA cameras also means the agency cannot monitor Iranian actions when those inspectors are not physically at a site.