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Iran: Plan to restrict UN nuclear inspections reversible if US lifts sanctions

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says limiting inspections will not mean Tehran has abandoned 2015 nuclear deal
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani inspects nuclear technology (AFP)

Iran's plans to end snap nuclear inspections by UN inspectors next week are reversible if the United States lifts sanctions to revive a 2015 nuclear deal, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Sunday.

Washington, along with European participants to the deal, recently called on Iran not to follow through with the measures. 

In a televised interview with Iran's English language Press TV, Zarif said that ending the snap inspections would not mean Iran had abandoned the nuclear deal.

"All our steps [to breach the deal] are reversible... The move on 23 February is not abandoning the deal," Zarif said

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Iranian lawmakers passed a law last year obliging the government to limit nuclear inspections to declared nuclear sites only, revoking its short-notice access to any location seen as relevant for information-gathering, if other parties did not fully comply with the deal.

Iran has taken staggered steps to pull away from its commitments to the deal since then-US president Donald Trump abandoned it and hit Iran with sanctions in 2018. 

Zarif said returning to the agreement will require US President Joe Biden's new administration to take the first steps. 

"The United States must return to the deal and lift all sanctions... The United States is addicted to sanctions, but they should know that Iran will not yield to pressure," he said. "We are not seeking nuclear weapons."

Tehran talks

The Biden administration said on Thursday it was ready to discuss returning to the accord, which aimed to prevent Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons while lifting most international sanctions. 

Iran and the US have been at odds over which country should take the first step to revive the accord.

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Iran insists Washington must first lift US sanctions while the US says Tehran must first return to full compliance with the deal.

Zarif said that "for all practical purposes" the Biden administration is pursuing the same policy of "maximum pressure" as Trump.

The head of the UN nuclear watchdog met Iran's atomic energy chief in Tehran on Sunday, hours before the deadline to limit inspections by the agency if US sanctions are not lifted.

Rafael Grossi, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), arrived in Tehran late on Saturday and met with the head of the Iran Atomic Energy Organisation, Ali Akbar Salehi, early on Sunday, TV images showed.

Iran held "fruitful discussions" with Grossi on Sunday, Tehran's ambassador to the UN body said.

"Iran and the IAEA held fruitful discussions based on mutual respect, the result of which will be released this evening," Kazem Gharibabadi, who attended the meeting, wrote on Twitter.