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Iran agrees to extend UN watchdog deal over nuclear sites

May 24, 2021

The IAEA will continue to monitor Iran's nuclear activity after the end of an initial three-month arrangement. The move comes as Tehran tries to gain leverage in the Vienna talks.

A view of the nuclear enrichment plant of Natanz in central Iran
File photo: The Natanz nuclear enrichment plant in central IranImage: picture-alliance/dpa/EPA/STR

Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have agreed to a one-month extension on a deal on surveillance cameras at Tehran's atomic sites.

The arrangement gives the UN watchdog limited access to monitor Iran's nuclear plants after the initial three-month deal expired on Sunday.

"The verification and the monitoring activities that we agreed will continue as they are now for one month, expiring on June 24th, 2021," IAEA director general Rafael Grossi told a news conference.

Iran's representative to the IAEA, Kazem Gharibabadi, confirmed the deal.

Iran nuclear deal talks restart

What is the monitoring agreement?

The confidential agreement dubbed "Additional Protocol" with Iran allows the IAEA to collect and analyze images from a series of surveillance cameras installed at Iranian nuclear sites.

Those cameras help the UN agency monitor Tehran's program to see if it complies with the 2015 nuclear deal.

In December, Iran's parliament passed a bill to suspend part of the UN monitoring of its nuclear facilities if European signatories did not provide sanction relief. 

A three-month agreement was then struck in February, giving the IAEA limited access. But Tehran had threatened to delete surveillance data if no deal was reached with the United States.

Grossi said that Iran has agreed the information that the IAEA has collected so far would not be erased.

The interim solution "is not ideal," Grossi said. But "it is a way to avoid flying completely blind and losing essential information," he added.

A satellite image shows Iran's Natanz Nuclear Facility in Isfahan
This satellite image, taken last year, shows Iran's Natanz nuclear facilityImage: Maxar Technologies/​REUTERS

What about the nuclear deal talks? 

Western diplomats had previously warned that IAEA inspections were essential to save the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

Tehran is using the inspections as leverage in talks in Vienna about the deal, which includes restrictions on Iran's nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. 

"We recommend the negotiating countries to seize the extra opportunity provided by Iran in good faith for the complete lifting of sanctions in a practical and verifiable manner," Gharibabadi said on Twitter. 

A round of negotiations involving Germany, France, Britain, Russia and China is set to begin this week in Vienna.

The talks are focused on bringing the US back into the deal and negotiating a new set of nuclear restrictions for Iran.

Iran and America: Is a new nuclear deal possible?

fb/jlw (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)