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World

Iran's rulers close ranks, raise pressure on Biden to lift sanctions

  • State daily raps MPs over law against snap UN inspections.
  • Deal with IAEA to soften law creates window for diplomacy.
  • Government seeks revival of 2015 deal despite tough talk.
  • Driven by crippling of Iran's economy under US sanctions.
23 Feb 2021

DUBAI: An Iranian state newspaper, taking aim at lawmakers' intervention in Tehran's nuclear row with the West, warned on Tuesday that overly radical actions may lead to Iran's isolation after a new law ended snap inspections by UN inspectors.

Iran's 2015 nuclear deal with world powers has been fraying since 2018 when the United States pulled out and reimposed harsh sanctions on Tehran, prompting it to breach the deal's limits on uranium enrichment, a potential pathway to nuclear weapons.

On Monday, Iranian lawmakers protested against the government's decision to permit "necessary" monitoring by the International Atomic Energy Agency for up to three months, saying the move broke a new law they passed that mandated an end to IAEA snap inspections as of Tuesday.

Under the 2015 deal, Iran agreed to observe the IAEA's Additional Protocol that permits short-notice inspections at locations not declared to the agency - to bolster confidence that nuclear work is not being covertly put to military ends.

The three-month compromise secured by the IAEA's director-general on a trip to Tehran last weekend kept alive hopes for an eventual diplomatic solution to rescue the nuclear deal.

But the state newspaper Iran, seen as close to pragmatist President Hassan Rouhani, a former chief nuclear negotiator, suggested in an unusually critical commentary that the new law blocking snap inspections could be counter-productive.

"Those who say Iran must take swift tough action on the nuclear accord should say what guarantee there is that Iran will not be left alone as in the past..., and will this end anywhere other than helping build a consensus against Iran?" it said.

Both Tehran, whose economy has been crippled by sanctions, and new US President Joe Biden's administration want to salvage the deal repudiated by his predecessor Donald Trump, but disagree over who should take the first step. Iran insists the United States must first lift sanctions, while Washington avers that Tehran must first return to compliance with the pact.

Since Trump's pull-out in 2018, Iran has been rebuilding stockpiles of low-enriched uranium, enriching it to higher levels of fissile purity and installing advanced centrifuges to speed up production.