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Iran to rule on extending IAEA nuclear site inspections only after deal expires

UN atomic watchdog hasn’t been able to access surveillance cameras at Iranian nuclear sites since late February

A truck containing cylinder of uranium hexafluoride gas leaves Ahmadi Roshan uranium enrichment facility in Natanz to Fordo nuclear facility for the purpose of injecting the gas into Fordo centrifuges, November 6, 2019. (Atomic Energy Organization of Iran via AP)
A truck containing cylinder of uranium hexafluoride gas leaves Ahmadi Roshan uranium enrichment facility in Natanz to Fordo nuclear facility for the purpose of injecting the gas into Fordo centrifuges, November 6, 2019. (Atomic Energy Organization of Iran via AP)

Iran will decide whether to extend a monitoring deal with the International Atomic Energy Agency after its expiry on Thursday, presidential chief of staff Mahmoud Vaezi said Wednesday.

“It has been decided that after the expiration of the agreement’s deadline, Iran’s Supreme National Security Council [will] decide about the agreement’s extension at its first meeting,” Vaezi said, according to Iran’s state TV.

The IAEA hasn’t been able to access its surveillance cameras at Iranian nuclear sites since late February, along with data from its online enrichment monitors and electronic seals, hobbling the UN nuclear watchdog’s monitoring abilities.

A temporary agreement was reached whereby Iran committed to preserving the surveillance footage until June 24.

If Iran’s nuclear program remains unchecked, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has warned, it could shrink Tehran’s “breakout” time down to “a matter of weeks.” That has worried nonproliferation experts.

Since US President Joe Biden took office, his diplomats have been working with other world powers to come up with a way to return both the US and Iran to the 2015 nuclear deal, which his predecessor backed out of in 2018. There have been no direct US-Iran meetings in those negotiations, though separate talks have been underway involving a possible prisoner swap.

Ebrahim Raisi, who went on to win Iran’s presidential elections, waves after casting his vote at a polling station in Tehran, Iran, June 18, 2021. (Ebrahim Noroozi/AP)

Hardline judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi, who was elected president of Iran last week, said his administration would not allow negotiations to go on unless they were deemed beneficial to Iran.

“Any negotiations that guarantee national interests will certainly be supported, but… we will not allow negotiations to be for negotiation’s sake,” he said in his first press conference on Monday. “The US is obliged to lift all oppressive sanctions against Iran.”

Meanwhile, it remains unclear when a deal will be reached in the talks, which are taking place in Vienna. And while Iran has broken through all the accord’s limits, there’s still more it could do to increase pressure on the West. Those steps could include using more centrifuges, further increasing enrichment, restarting a facility that makes plutonium as a byproduct, or abandoning a nuclear nonproliferation treaty.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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