Iran in new threat to ban UN inspectors from nuclear plants


Iran vowed on Monday to block snap inspections of its nuclear plants by the UN atomic watchdog from next week unless the US returns to the 2015 nuclear deal.

The threat is the latest move in Tehran’s game of brinkmanship over the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the agreement to curb its nuclear program in return for an easing of economic sanctions.

Former US President Donald Trump withdrew from the JCPOA in 2018 and reimposed sanctions, since when Iran has escalated its breaches of the agreement by increasing its enrichment of uranium. Trump’s successor Joe Biden has said he wants to return to the deal, but Washington and Tehran both insist that the other should make the first move.

In an additional protocol to the JCPOA, Iran agreed that inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency could make unannounced visits to its nuclear facilities to check compliance with the deal.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said on Monday: “If others do not fulfil their obligations by Feb. 21, the government is obliged to suspend the voluntary implementation of the additional protocol. All these steps are reversible if the other party changes its path and honors its obligations.”

While Tehran is taking a hard line in its public challenges to the US, Iranian officials have admitted that US sanctions are crippling the country’s economy, and it may be forced to compromise on compliance with the JCPOA.