Iran resumed its game of cat and mouse with UN inspectors on Sunday as the US cast doubt on the revival of the deal to curb Tehran’s nuclear program.
Parliamentary speaker Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf said a three-month agreement to preserve surveillance images taken at Iran’s nuclear research sites had ended, and hard-liners demanded that the images be deleted rather than handed over to the International Atomic Energy Agency.
“After these three months, the International Atomic Energy Agency definitely won’t have the right to access the camera footage,” Qalibaf said. Hard-line politician Ali Reza Salimi said: “Recorded images in the cameras should be eliminated.”
Iran had permitted the surveillance images to be captured while talks continued in Vienna on reviving the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the 2015 agreement to restrict its nuclear program in return for the lifting in international sanction.
The deal collapsed in 2018 when Donald Trump pulled the US out and reimposed sanctions, and Iran began breaching the agreement’s restrictions on uranium enrichment. President Joe Biden has offered to rejoin the deal if Iran resumes compliance, but Iran says sanctions must be lifted first.
Iran, I think, knows what it needs to do to come back into compliance on the nuclear side.
Antony Blinken, US secretary of state
President Joe Biden has offered to rejoin the deal if Iran resumes compliance, but Iran says sanctions must be lifted first.
Talks on resolving the impasse will resume in Vienna on Wednesday, but US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Sunday questioned Tehran’s commitment to reviving the deal.
“We know what sanctions would need to be lifted if they’re inconsistent with the nuclear agreement,” he said.
“Iran, I think, knows what it needs to do to come back into compliance on the nuclear side, and what we haven’t yet seen is whether Iran is ready and willing to make a decision to do what it has to do. That’s the test and we don’t yet have an answer,” Blinken told ABC News’ “This Week With George Stephanopoulos” program.
With a fifth round of discussions ahead, Blinken said, “the first thing that we need to do is put the nuclear problem back in the box.” The talks, he added, helped clarify what both sides needed to do to move forward.
Iran’s hard-line parliament approved a law in December that would suspend part of UN inspections of its nuclear facilities if European signatories to the JCPOA did not provide relief from oil and banking sanctions by February.
The IAEA struck a three-month deal with Iran in February to have it hold the surveillance images, with Tehran threatening to delete them afterward if no deal had been reached.
Analysts believe the contradictory messages emerging from Tehran reflect an internal power struggle ahead of Iran’s presidential election in June, when President Hassan Rouhani — one of the architects of the JCPOA — will be replaced because he cannot seek a third term in office.
Source: Arab News