May 23, 2021 - World

Iran official: Inspectors will no longer have access to nuclear sites images

A picture taken on November 10, 2019, shows an Iranian flag in Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant, during an official ceremony to kick-start works on a second reactor at the facility.

Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant. Photo: Atta Kenare/AFP via Getty Images

Iran's parliament speaker said that a three-month monitoring agreement with the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency has expired, so inspectors can no longer access images of nuclear sites, state media reported Sunday.

Why it matters: The remarks by Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf underline the "narrowing window for the U.S. and others" to strike a deal with Iran, which has been enriching uranium at levels much higher than the 3.7% agreed to in the 2015 accord, AP notes.

  • If the monitoring agreement ends, Iranian officials could erase all recordings of the country's nuclear activity, effectively leaving inspectors unable to scrutinize work at the sites, per the Guardian.

Driving the news: The IAEA and Iran reached an agreement in February that allowed UN inspectors to continue necessary verification and monitoring of the country's nuclear facilities for up to three months.

  • "Based on the expiration of the three-month deadline, definitely the International Atomic Energy Agency will not have the right to access images from May 22," Qalibaf said.

The big picture: Iran stepped up its enrichment efforts by building centrifuges and enriching nuclear materials to levels that violated the deal after former President Trump withdrew the U.S. from the international agreement in 2018.

What to watch: IAEA head Rafael Grossi, who's been in talks with Iranian officials to extend the monitoring deal, was due to hold a news conference later Sunday, Reuters reports.

Go deeper: U.S. and Iran remain far apart as nuclear talks reach critical stage

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