The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency said that Iran had agreed to extend the access of UN inspectors to its nuclear sites for a period of three months.
However, the agreement reached in a hurry, will reduce the procedures available to agency officials, and end their right to conduct surprise inspections.
Iran is working to change the disclosure policy on its nuclear reactors from Tuesday, because the United States has not lifted the sanctions imposed since Donald Trump abandoned the nuclear deal signed in 2015.
Washington and Tehran now have more time to search for a compromise.
The Trump administration re-imposed sanctions on Iran, and Tehran responded by resuming nuclear activity banned under the agreement signed with the six major powers.
Iran says “it will not back down from measures unless the United States fully complies with the 2015 agreement,” but US President Joe Biden said Iran should do so first.
The crisis of Iran’s nuclear program has been on the international agenda for nearly 20 years. Iran says its atomic program is for peaceful purposes, while the United States and others suspect Iran of secretly seeking the ability to develop nuclear weapons.
What do the recent Iranian measures mean?
A law passed by Iran’s parliament that will go into effect on Tuesday requires the government to stop allowing experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to inspect, within a short time, declared or undeclared nuclear sites.
“This law is there. This law will be applied, which means that the additional protocol, unfortunately, will be suspended,” said Rafael Grossi, head of the international agency.
“There are fewer access opportunities, let’s face it. But we are still able to maintain the necessary degree of monitoring and verification work,” he added.
The Additional Protocol allows the IAEA to conduct surprise inspections at previously undiscovered sites.
Iran agreed to resume snap inspections under the 2015 agreement, after it suspended it in 2006. These visits are a voluntary part of the former separate nonproliferation treaty, an international agreement drawn up in the late 1960s aimed at preventing the spread of nuclear weapons, which it acceded to To Iran in 1970.
Last year, Iran refused the agency access to two exciting sites it requested to visit, leading to a standoff that lasted months before Iran softened.
The routine inspections by IAEA experts agreed under the 2015 agreement will continue. Iran has said the new law will not lead to the expulsion of the inspectors.
Grossi said the interim three-month agreement had “somewhat tempered” the change in Iranian policy.
“But of course, for a stable and sustainable situation, there must be political negotiations that are not my specialty,” he added.
Why did Iran act now?
In the short term, Iran wants to put more pressure on the United States and other parties to the 2015 agreement, namely France, Germany, Britain, Russia and China, to get Washington to lift sanctions on Iran’s oil, banking and financial sectors.
The Iranian law was passed after Joe Biden won the US presidential election but before he took office, with some hope that the new leader would be more willing to engage (in talks) than his hard-line predecessor.
However, the Biden administration made clear that it expects Iran to return to full compliance with the 2015 deal before the United States joins once again to the agreement and ends sanctions.
But Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said it was up to Washington to take the first step.
Iran has increasingly stopped complying with its obligations under the 2015 deal since the United States withdrew, which has deepened concern among the remaining members that its resumption of banned activities could ease the path towards acquiring a nuclear bomb.
And last month, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said that Iran might be “weeks” away from having enough materials to be used in a nuclear weapon, although recent Israeli estimates indicate that Iran needs about two years to develop a bomb that can be launched.
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