IAEA chief is in Tehran ahead of a Tuesday ultimatum over sanctions relief

Rafael Grossi visits Iran as officials warn they are set to switch off UN inspectors’ cameras at nuclear sites

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Grossi gestures as he wears a mask during a meeting with head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization Ali-Akbar Salehi, in Tehran, Iran February 21, 2021. Hadi Zand/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY.
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Despite concerns raised by the UN, Iran is expected to move ahead with curtailing the International Atomic Energy Agency's ability to monitor its nuclear programme.

In an effort to keep its surveillance cameras on at Iran’s nuclear sites, director general of the IAEA, Rafael Grossi is in Tehran and held a number of high-level meetings on Sunday, including with the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation, Ali Akbar Salehi.

Ahead of his visit, Mr Grossi said that he is aiming to ensure "essential verification activities … this is in everybody's interest". However, the Iranian government has said that it will cut off access to the cameras used by the UN, in adherence with its parliament's decision. Last December, Iran's parliament passed a bill that suspends part of the UN inspections of its nuclear sites if European countries do not provide sanctions relief by this Tuesday.

Iran's Ambassador and Permanent Representative to International Organizations in Vienna, Kazem Gharibabadi said on Sunday, Iran and the IAEA “held fruitful discussions based on mutual respect”, without providing further details.

Mr Grossi was due to meet Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, according to Iranian state news agency, IRNA.

Mr Zarif said in an interview with Iranian state-owned TV station Press TV, that after Iran’s parliament voted to stop adhering to the IAEA’s additional protocol, authorities “are required by law not to provide the tapes of those cameras”. It is unclear if that means the cameras will actually be turned off, however Mr Zarif insisted “the IAEA certainly will not get footage from those cameras”.

Mr Zarif reiterated the Iranian position of expecting US sanctions to be removed before negotiating a return to the 2015 nuclear accord with world powers, which Washington withdrew from under President Donald Trump. The US under Mr Trump had been implementing a policy of "maximum pressure" since 2018 to drive Iran back to the negotiating table to address areas of concern, including its proxy militias in the Middle East region and its ballistic missile programme.

“They haven’t changed their policy … the US is addicted to sanctions, to pressure, to bullying”, he said. He added that President Joe Biden and his administration “have come to the conclusion that maximum pressure led to maximum failure”.

Meanwhile, the Sunday Times reported that the Biden administration is likely to remove sanctions on Iran. "Sanctions relief is definitely coming, not today or tomorrow but it is coming", according to a US national security source speaking to the Sunday Times.