Rafael Grossi, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). AFP
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei demanded “action, not words” from the United States if it wants to revive Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, the latest challenge to new President Joe Biden to take the first step towards a thaw.
Tehran has set a deadline of next week for Biden to begin reversing sanctions imposed by his predecessor Donald Trump, or Iran will take its biggest step yet to violate the nuclear deal -- banning short notice inspections by the U.N. nuclear watchdog.
“We have heard many nice words and promises which in practice have been broken and opposite actions have been taken. Words and promises are no good. This time (we want) only action from the other side, and we will also act,” Khamenei said in a televised speech.
Biden aims to restore the pact under which Iran agreed to curbs on its nuclear programme in return for the lifting of sanctions, a major achievement of the Obama administration abandoned by Trump in 2018.
But while both Tehran and Washington now say they want to see the agreement revived, they are at odds over who should make the first move. Iran says the United States must first lift Trump’s sanctions, while Washington says Tehran must first return to compliance with the deal, which it began violating after the sanctions were reimposed.
Iran has accelerated its breaches of the deal’s restrictions in recent months, culminating in an announcement that it will end snap inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Feb. 23. The inspections are required under a part of the agreement known as the “Additional Protocol.”
European parties to the deal have said that would be a major breach. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani played it down on Wednesday, saying ending the snap inspections would not be a “significant step”, as Iran would still comply with core obligations in a so-called Safeguards Agreement with the IAEA.
“We will end the implementation of the Additional Protocol on Feb. 23 and what will be implemented will be based on the safeguards,” Rouhani said at a televised cabinet meeting. “The Additional Protocol is a step beyond safeguards.”
The IAEA said on Tuesday its Director General Rafael Grossi has offered to visit Tehran to find a “mutually agreeable solution for the agency to continue essential verification activities”. Rouhani said Iran would accept such a visit.