DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran threatened on Tuesday to block short-notice inspections of its nuclear facilities, demanding Washington reverse economic sanctions before it returns to compliance with a nuclear deal that President Joe Biden aims to restore.
Biden, who took office last week, aims to reverse a decision by his predecessor Donald Trump to pull out of the 2015 agreement between Iran and world powers.
The agreement lifted sanctions on Iran in return for curbs to Iran’s nuclear programme, but after Trump quit and reimposed sanctions, Iran violated its conditions. Biden says Tehran should return to compliance before sanctions are lifted; Iran wants the sanctions lifted first.
Under the accord, the International Atomic Energy Agency was given wide-ranging access to gather information on Iran’s nuclear activities, including the right to demand short-notice inspections of any site it deems necessary.
Iranian government spokesman Ali Rabiei said the first steps to restrict those inspections would begin in the week from Feb. 19.
“Our law is very clear regarding this issue,” he told a televised news conference. “But it does not mean Iran will stop other inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency.”
Iran’s hardline-dominated parliament passed a law in December that obliges the government to harden its nuclear stance if U.S. sanctions are not lifted in two months.
Iran has repeatedly said it can quickly reverse its violations of the deal if U.S. sanctions are removed.
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif reiterated that possibility at a news conference in Moscow on Tuesday.
“If favorable actions are taken before that time…Iran will not interfere with the admission of (IAEA) inspectors under the additional protocol,” he said.
In a later tweet, Zarif repeated that it was up to Washington to make the first move: “Why on earth should Iran — a country that stood firm & defeated 4 years of a brutal US economic terrorism imposed in violation of JCPOA & UNSC (United Nations Security Council) Resolution — show goodwill gesture first?”
“It was the US that broke the deal—for no reason. It must remedy its wrong; then Iran will respond.”
Iran this month resumed enriching uranium to 20% fissile strength at a nuclear plant, a level Tehran achieved before striking the deal.
A French presidential official said Iran must end its provocations and return to the terms of the deal if it expects the United States to rejoin it.
“If they are serious about negotiations and if they want to obtain a re-engagement of all the stakeholders in the JCPOA, they firstly need to refrain from further provocations and secondly respect what they no longer respect, that’s to say their obligations,” the official told reporters on condition of anonymity.
The official did not spell out how a lifting of sanctions during a return to compliance would work, but said the French and U.S. administrations were clear on what needed to be done.
(Additional reporting by Polina Devitt in Moscow, Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Angus MacSwan, William Maclean and Peter Graff)