Iran considers extending IAEA access to nuclear site images

UN nuclear agency chief Rafael Grossi is in talks with Tehran

FILE - In this May 28, 2020, file photo, Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf, center, is surrounded by a group of lawmakers after being elected as speaker of the parliament, in Tehran, Iran. Iran's parliament speaker says international inspectors may no longer access images of the Islamic Republic's nuclear sites. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi, File)
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The Speaker of Iran's Parliament said on Sunday a three-month monitoring deal between Tehran and the UN nuclear watchdog had expired and that its access to images from inside some Iranian nuclear sites would cease.

The International Atomic Energy Agency and Tehran struck the three-month monitoring agreement in February to cushion the blow of Iran reducing its co-operation with the agency.

It allowed monitoring of some activities that would otherwise have been axed.

IAEA chief Rafael Grossi is in talks with Iran on extending the agreement.

European diplomats said last week that failure to agree to an extension would plunge the wider, indirect talks between Washington and Tehran on reviving the 2015 deal into crisis. The talks are due to resume in Vienna this week.

The IAEA had planned for Mr Grossi to hold a public briefing on Sunday but it said he was still "consulting with Tehran" and that the briefing had been postponed until Monday morning.

"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 TV quoted Parliament Speaker Mohammad Qalibaf as saying.

An unidentified official was also quoted as saying that the agreement between the IAEA and Tehran could be extended "conditionally" for a month.

"If extended for a month and if during this period major powers ... accept Iran's legal demands, then the data will be handed over to the agency," the member of Iran's Supreme National Security Council said.

"Otherwise, the images will be deleted forever."

Western diplomats have said that not extending the deal could seriously harm efforts to salvage the 2015 nuclear accord.

The accord aims to stop Iran making nuclear weapons, which Tehran says it has never wanted to build.

Iran and global powers have held several rounds of negotiations since April in Vienna, working on what Tehran and Washington must do about sanctions and nuclear activity to return to full compliance with the pact.

Iran began gradually breaching terms of the 2015 pact with world powers after former President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the deal in 2018 and reimposed sanctions.

Iran's pragmatist president, Hassan Rouhani, said on Sunday that Tehran would continue the talks in Vienna "until reaching a final agreement".

He  repeated an earlier statement that "Washington has agreed to lift sanctions" on Iran, state media reported.

Other parties to the talks and Iran's top nuclear negotiator have said some important issues needed further discussion.

To pressure US President Joe Biden to return to the nuclear pact and lift sanctions, Iran’s hardline-dominated Parliament passed a law last year to end its obligations to allow IAEA short-notice inspections.

To give diplomacy a chance, the watchdog and Iran agreed in February to keep “necessary” IAEA monitoring and verification activities.

Mr Qalibaf told Parliament's open session, aired by state TV, that Iran's ultimate authority, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, backed the law.

"Yesterday it was discussed and the decision was made. The law passed by the parliament will be implemented," Mr Qalibaf said.

"The supreme leader has underlined the importance of implementing the law as well."

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