Iran nuclear deal

Will block short-notice IAEA inspections of nuclear facilities, warns Iran official

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Iran threatened on Tuesday to block short-notice inspections of its nuclear facilities by the United Nations atomic agency as it presses Washington to reverse economic sanctions imposed on Tehran.

Former US President Donald Trump pulled Washington out of Iran’s 2015 nuclear pact with world powers in 2018 and re-imposed US sanctions that had been lifted under it, prompting Tehran to violate its conditions.

President Joe Biden, who took office last week, has said the United States will rejoin the pact if Tehran resumes strict compliance.

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The agreement requires Tehran to implement an Additional Protocol, which provides inspectors with wide-ranging access to information on Iran’s nuclear activities and the ability to inspect any site it deems necessary to verify that those activities are peaceful.

In what appeared to be a display of brinkmanship, Iranian government spokesman Ali Rabiei said the first steps to restrict inspections related to the Additional Protocol would begin in the first week of the Iranian month of Esfand, which starts on Feb. 19.

“Our law is very clear regarding this issue,” he told a televised news conference. “But it does not mean Iran will stop other inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency.”

Iran’s hardline-dominated parliament passed a law in December that obliges the government to harden its nuclear stance if US sanctions are not lifted in two months.

But Iran has repeatedly said it can quickly reverse its violations of the deal if US sanctions are removed.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif reiterated that possibility at a news conference in Moscow on Tuesday.

“If favorable actions are taken before that time...Iran will not interfere with the admission of (IAEA) inspectors under the additional protocol,” he said.

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Iran this month resumed enriching uranium to 20 percent fissile strength at the underground Fordow nuclear plant, a level Tehran achieved before striking the 2015 deal aimed at curbing Tehran’s nuclear program.

“Of course, Washington will not have all the time in the world ... the window of opportunity is very limited,” Rabiei said.