Ending IAEA snap inspections doesn't breach 2015 nuclear deal: Iranian foreign minister

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif reiterated Iran's stance that Washington should take the first step by lifting all sanctions. PHOTO: REUTERS

DUBAI (REUTERS) - Iran's decision to end snap inspections by UN inspectors on Feb 23 would not mean abandoning its 2015 nuclear deal, but the United States must still lift sanctions on Teheran to rescue the pact, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Sunday (Feb 21).

"All our steps (to breach the deal) are reversible... The move on Feb 23 is not abandoning the deal," Mr Zarif said in a televised interview with Iran's English Language Press TV.

Under a law enacted by hardline Iranian lawmakers last year, the government is obliged on Feb 23 to limit International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) 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.

President Joe Biden's administration said on Thursday it was ready to talk to Iran about both nations returning to the accord, which aimed to prevent Teheran from acquiring nuclear weapons while lifting most international sanctions.

Former president Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the accord in 2018 and re-imposed sanctions on Iran.

But Iran and the United States have been at odds over who should take the first step to revive the accord.

Iran insists the US must first lift its sanctions, while Washington says Teheran must first return to compliance with the deal.

Mr Zarif reiterated Iran's stance that Washington should take the first step by lifting all sanctions if it wants to revive the accord.

"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."

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

Mr Rafael Grossi, the director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency. who is in Teheran to discuss the agency's "essential verification activities" met on Sunday with Iran's atomic chief, state media reported.

Mr Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran, said on Saturday that the agency's concerns over Iran's ending the implementation of the IAEA's Additional Protocol - which entails snap inspections - will be discussed during his meeting with Mr Grossi.

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