Tehran, Iran – The Iranian parliament speaker said Sunday that international inspectors may no longer be able to access surveillance images of the Islamic Republic’s nuclear facilities, adding to tensions amid diplomatic efforts in Vienna to save Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers.
Iranian Speaker Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf’s comments, broadcast on state television, further underscored the narrowing window for the US and others to connect with Iran. The Islamic Republic is already accumulating and storing uranium in quantities that far exceed the values permitted in the 2015 nuclear agreement.
“In relation to this, and based on the expiry of the three-month period, definitely the International Atomic Energy Agency will no longer be able to access images from May 22nd, ”said Qalibaf.
The International Atomic Energy Agency announced that its general director would inform the reporters later on Sunday in Vienna. The United Nations agency did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
As part of a so-called “additional protocol” with Iran, the IAEA collects and analyzes “hundreds of thousands of images that are taken daily by their highly developed surveillance cameras,” the agency said in 2017. The agency also stated at the time that “2,000 manipulations” were carried out to have -secure seals on core material and equipment. “
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The Iranian parliament passed a draft law in December to suspend some of the inspections of its nuclear facilities by the United States if the European signatories do not allow oil and banking sanctions to be eased by February. The IAEA has signed a three-month contract with Iran to store the surveillance images. Tehran threatens to delete them later if a contract is not reached.
It wasn’t immediately clear whether the February images had been deleted.
Prior to Qalibaf’s remarks, lawmaker Ali Reza Salimi called for an open session of parliament to ensure that Iran’s civilian nuclear arm “erased” the images. The Iranian Atomic Energy Agency did not immediately comment on the decision.
“Order the head of the Atomic Energy Agency to avoid delays,” said Salimi, a clergyman from downtown Delijan, Iran. The “captured images in the cameras should be removed.”
It was also not clear what this meant for personal inspections by the IAEA. There are 18 nuclear facilities and nine other sites in Iran that are placed under IAEA protection.
Qalibaf said the top Iranian leader ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say in all state affairs, supported the decision.
In 2018, then-President Donald Trump unilaterally pulled the US out of the nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. An escalating series of incidents since Trump’s withdrawal has threatened the Middle East.
Over a year ago, a US drone attack killed a top Iranian general, which resulted in Tehran later launching ballistic missiles that wounded dozens of American troops in Iraq.
A mysterious explosion also hit Iran’s Natanz nuclear power plant, which Iran has labeled sabotage.
In November, Iranian scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, who founded the country’s military nuclear program about two decades earlier, was killed in an attack in which Tehran blamed Israel.