TEHRAN (Dispatches) -- Iran confirmed it had begun implementing new restrictions on inspections by the UN nuclear agency Tuesday after the United States failed to lift economic sanctions by a weekend deadline.
Officials announced plans to cease implementation of the so-called "Additional Protocol,” a confidential agreement between Tehran and the IAEA reached as part of the landmark nuclear accord. The agreement grants the UN inspectors enhanced powers to visit nuclear facilities and watch Iran’s program.
The changes to the IAEA’s monitoring and inspection regime, which were ordered by Iran’s parliament last year, are the latest in a series of retaliatory measures Iran has adopted in response to then U.S. president Donald Trump’s 2018 withdrawal from the agreement.
"The implementation of the law began this morning,” Foreign Minister Muhammad Javad Zarif told the official IRNA news agency.
Recordings from monitoring equipment that the IAEA installed at Iran’s nuclear sites to verify its compliance will now be withheld by Tehran until President Joe Biden has lifted the inhuman sanctions imposed by Trump.
Iran’s "voluntary transparency measures”, including snap inspections of sites not under regular monitoring, are also suspended.
Zarif said the changes would have no major immediate impact on the work of the IAEA inspectors.
"The crux of this deal is that the data recorded on our nuclear program ... will be stored and not handed over to the IAEA,” Iran’s top diplomat said. The data "had never been supplied to the IAEA in real time but had been handed over on a daily or weekly basis,” he said.
If talks on a U.S. return to the nuclear deal drag on, that will change, however.
The Iranian Atomic Energy Organization has said that under the new law, if there is still no lifting of U.S. sanctions after three months, it will start erasing the recordings.
If the sanctions are not "fully lifted in the next three months”, the data will be "destroyed for good”, it said.
Biden has claimed he is ready to revive the nuclear deal but insists Iran first return to all its nuclear commitments. Tehran demands Washington take the first step by scrapping the sanctions because it was the U.S. which first abandoned the nuclear deal.
Over recent weeks, Iran has started enriching uranium up to 20% purity. It is also using advanced centrifuges and producing uranium metal, a component for power generation.
Cabinet spokesman Ali Rabiei outlined further developments in Iran’s nuclear program on Tuesday. Over the last three weeks, he told reporters, Iran has installed and started feeding gas into an additional 148 high-tech IR2-m centrifuges at its Natanz nuclear enrichment facility and its fortified nuclear complex at Fordo, bringing the total number of centrifuges to up to 492. Another set of 492 centrifuges will be installed in the coming month, he said.
He added that Iran has installed
two cascades of even more advanced centrifuges at its nuclear enrichment facilities.
On Monday, Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei said Iran would refuse to capitulate U.S. pressure over its nuclear program. Ayatollah Khamenei said that Iran could enrich uranium up to 60% purity if necessary, but reiterated that the country forbids nuclear weapons.
"That international Zionist clown has said they won’t allow Iran to produce nuclear weapons. First of all, if we had any such intention, even those more powerful than him wouldn’t be able to stop us,” the Leader said, in an apparent reference to Zionist PM Benjamin Netanyahu.