Iran will expel United Nations nuclear inspectors next month unless the US lifts its sanctions on the country, an Iranian lawmaker said Saturday.
“If the sanctions against the Islamic Republic of Iran are not lifted by February 21, especially in the fields of finance, banking, and oil, we will definitely expel the International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors from the country,” said Ahmad Amirabadi Farahani in a television interview, according to an English translation of his remarks by the Mehr news agency.
UN inspections of Iran’s nuclear sites are a key part of a 2015 pact with world powers that saw sanctions lifted from Iran in return for its dismantling the weapons aspects of its nuclear program.
The United States unilaterally withdrew from the agreement in 2018, and the remaining countries that signed it with Iran — Germany, France, Britain, China and Russia — have been trying to keep the accord from collapsing. The Trump administration imposed crippling sanctions on Iran while demanding it renegotiate stricter terms to the deal. Iran has refused and responded by walking back its own commitments to the accord.
“We do not see any reason to fulfill our obligations until the sanctions are lifted,” Farahani said.
“This is the law of Iranian Parliament and the government is obliged to implement it,” he stressed, referring to legislation passed in November last year and approved in December by Iran’s Guardian Council watchdog.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo responded in a statement on Saturday that Iran has an obligation to allow the inspections to continue.
“Once again, the Iranian regime is using its nuclear program to extort the international community and threaten regional security,” Pompeo said.
“Nuclear brinksmanship will not strengthen Iran’s position, but instead lead to further isolation and pressure,” Pompeo warned and urged that expulsion of the inspectors “be met by universal condemnation.”
On Sunday, the speaker of Iran’s parliament said that the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action “is not a sacred agreement; it is merely a deal to remove sanctions under the conditions accepted by the Islamic Republic.”
Mohammad-Bagher Ghalibaf told a session of parliament that “the return of the United States to the deal is not important to us,” Mehr reported.
“It is the practical and tangible lifting of sanctions that really matters,” he said, and issued a warning to Western nations that back the US.
“The Western front should know that it must recognize the rights of the Iranian people; if not, it should be prepared to pay the appropriate price,” he said.
Last week, Iran began enriching uranium to levels unseen since the 2015 deal. The decision appeared aimed at increasing Tehran’s leverage during US President Donald Trump’s waning days in office.
Iran informed the International Atomic Energy Agency of its plans to increase enrichment to 20 percent. Increasing enrichment at its underground Fordo facility puts Tehran a technical step away from weapons-grade levels of 90%.
The purpose of the deal was to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear bomb — something Tehran insists it does not want to do.
US President-elect Joe Biden has said he hopes to return the US to the deal.