Iran: Nuclear site images won’t be given to IAEA, since inspection deal expired

UN nuclear watchdog says it received no reply from Tehran over an extension to the already temporary agreement, which lapsed last week

In this May 28, 2020 file photo, Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf speaks after being elected as speaker of the parliament, in Tehran, Iran.  (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi, File)
In this May 28, 2020 file photo, Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf speaks after being elected as speaker of the parliament, in Tehran, Iran. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi, File)

Iran said Sunday it will not hand over images from some Iranian nuclear sites to the UN nuclear watchdog, as the monitoring agreement between the sides has expired, according to state media.

“The agreement has expired… any of the information recorded will never be given to the International Atomic Energy Agency and the data and images will remain in the possession of Iran,” Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf, speaker of Iran’s parliament said on Sunday, according to the Reuters news agency.

On Friday, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said it had received no reply from Tehran over the possible extension of a temporary agreement covering inspections at Iranian nuclear facilities which expired on Thursday.

The IAEA said in a statement its director Rafael Grossi had written to Tehran about the matter on 17 June but that “Iran had not replied to his letter or indicated whether it intends to maintain the current arrangement.”

Grossi said “an immediate response from Iran is needed in this regard.”

Iran’s envoy to the IAEA, Kazem Gharibabadi, wrote on Twitter that the data recording was “a political decision” to facilitate the talks and “shouldn’t be considered as obligation.”

Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, Rafael Mariano Grossi from Argentina, addresses the media during a news conference behind plexiglass shields regarding the agency’s monitoring of Iran’s nuclear energy program at the International Center in Vienna, Austria, June 7, 2021. (AP Photo/Lisa Leutner)

Gharibabadi was also quoted by the Tasnim news agency as saying “that Iran was not required to comply” with Grossi’s request, according to Reuters.

In late February, Iran limited the IAEA’s access to nuclear sites it had been monitoring as part of the 2015 deal.

A three-month agreement reached on February 21 allowing some inspections to continue was extended by another month in May. Under that deal Iran pledged to keep recordings “of some activities and monitoring equipment” and hand them over to the IAEA as and when US sanctions are lifted.

Iran’s envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Kazem Gharibabadi, leaves the ‘Grand Hotel Vienna’ where where closed-door nuclear talks take place in Vienna, Austria, June 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Florian Schroetter)

Grossi has described the agreement on inspections as a “stop-gap measure… as a way to avoid flying completely blind.”

An unnamed US State Department official on Friday said Iran should work with the IAEA on the matter. The official told Reuters that a failure to do so would contradict Tehran’s claim that it wants both it and the United States to return to swiftly return to compliance with the nuclear deal.

“Iran should engage the IAEA without further delay to ensure appropriate measures remain in place so the IAEA’s continuity of knowledge on JCPOA monitoring can be readily reestablished,” the official said.

The agreement has been in place while Iran and world powers negotiate in Vienna over a possible US return to the nuclear deal.

Illustrative: An unidentified International Atomic Energy Agency inspector cuts the connections between the twin cascades for 20 percent uranium enrichment at the Natanz facility, some 200 miles (322 kilometers) south of the capital Tehran, Iran, January 20, 2014. (AP/IRNA, Kazem Ghane)

The accord has been unraveling ever since US then-president Donald Trump withdrew from it in May 2018 and went on to reimpose sanctions against Iran.

Iranian state media on Wednesday quoted Mahmoud Vaezi, chief of staff to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, as saying that the country’s Supreme National Security Council would take a decision on whether to extend the inspections arrangement with the IAEA at its first meeting after the expiration date.

Also Friday, the US and France warned Iran that time was running out to return to a nuclear deal, voicing fear that Tehran’s sensitive atomic activities could advance if talks drag on.

Israel has always opposed the nuclear agreement, which it says could enable the Islamic Republic to develop nuclear arms.

A change in Israel’s government earlier this month — which saw long-serving prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu ousted from office — has not changed the country’s policy on the matter. In a speech just before being sworn in as premier, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett expressed staunch opposition to an American return to the deal.

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