Tehran, Iran – The speaker of Iran’s parliament said on Sunday that international inspectors could no longer access surveillance footage of the Islamic Republic’s nuclear sites, escalating tensions amid diplomatic efforts in Vienna to save Tehran’s atomic deal with the world powers.
Comments by Iranian parliament speaker Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf, broadcast on state television, further underscored the narrowing of the window for the United States and others to come to an understanding with Iran. The Islamic Republic is already enriching and storing uranium at levels well above those allowed by its 2015 nuclear deal.
“In this regard, and taking into account the expiration of the three-month deadline, the International Atomic Energy Agency will certainly not have the right to access the images from May 22,” said Mr. Qalibaf.
The International Atomic Energy Agency said its director general would brief reporters later Sunday in Vienna. The United Nations agency did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Under what is called an “additional protocol” with Iran, the IAEA “collects and analyzes hundreds of thousands of images captured daily by its sophisticated surveillance cameras,” the agency said in 2017 The agency also said at the time that it had placed “2,000 sealed sabotages on nuclear materials and equipment. “
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Iran’s tough parliament in December approved a bill that would suspend part of UN inspections of its nuclear facilities if European signatories did not grant relief from oil and banking sanctions by February. The IAEA has reached a three-month deal with Iran to allow it to keep the surveillance footage, with Tehran threatening to remove it later if no deal is reached.
It was not immediately clear whether the February footage had been removed.
Ahead of Qalibaf’s remarks, lawmaker Ali Reza Salimi called for an open public session of parliament to ensure Iran’s civilian nuclear arm “erases” the footage. The Iranian Atomic Energy Organization did not immediately comment on the decision.
“Order the head of the Atomic Energy Organization to avoid delays,” said Salimi, a cleric from the central city of Delijan in Iran. “Images recorded in cameras must be discarded.”
It was also unclear what this meant for in-person inspections by the IAEA. There are 18 nuclear facilities and nine other sites in Iran under IAEA safeguards.
Qalibaf said Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say on all state matters, supported the decision.
In 2018, then-President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the United States from the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. A growing series of incidents since Trump’s withdrawal have threatened the wider Middle East.
More than a year ago, an American drone strike killed a senior Iranian general, forcing Tehran to later launch ballistic missiles that injured dozens of American soldiers in Iraq.
A mysterious explosion also struck the Iranian nuclear facility at Natanz, which Iran has called sabotage.
In November, Iranian scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, who had founded the country’s military nuclear program some 20 years earlier, was killed in an attack Tehran attributes to Israel.