Iran Likely to Extend UN Nuclear Monitoring Deal by a Month

Iran is likely to extend a U.N. nuclear inspections agreement by a month, buying diplomats time to revive a landmark deal that would usher a return of the Persian Gulf nation to world oil markets in exchange for curbs on its atomic work.

An extension of the interim arrangement with the International Atomic Energy Agency, which expired on Saturday, would avert a potential crisis in talks involving world powers and set the stage for them to finalize the return of the U.S. to the 2015 nuclear accord that former President Donald Trump abandoned three years ago.

Diplomats warned last week, after the fourth round of negotiations in Vienna, that failing to extend the IAEA monitoring agreement could scuttle a fragile process that seeks to end a standoff between Tehran and Washington that’s roiled oil markets and almost sparked a war between the two sides. The pact requires Iran to preserve video recorded by the agency’s cameras installed at nuclear facilities.

Iranian state TV, citing a person close to the country’s Supreme National Security Council, reported Sunday that the extension will be on condition that the multilateral talks lead to Washington’s return to the accord and the removal of Trump-era sanctions within a month.

“We are fully prepared to go back to the original deal as it was,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told CNN on Sunday, adding that he had yet to see whether the Iranians are on the same page.

Iran’s lead negotiator, Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi, told lawmakers in Tehran on Sunday that disagreements remained with the U.S. over how to lift certain sanctions, according to comments posted on his official Telegram channel.

In a briefing to Iran’s hardline parliament that lasted almost four hours, Araghchi said that the U.S. wanted to make the removal of some Trump-era sanctions conditional on human rights and regional matters. He didn’t give details.

Blinken, on ABC, said that recent talks in Vienna have “clarified what each side needs to do in order to come back into compliance” with the original agreement.

“Iran, I think, knows what it needs to do to come back into compliance on the nuclear side,” he said. “What we haven’t yet seen is whether Iran is ready and willing to make a decision to do what it has to do. That’s the test.”

IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi is expected to give a statement on the latest developments on Iran on Monday.

Tehran has threatened to erase recorded video material after 90 days unless sanctions were lifted. Grossi repeatedly warned that such a move would have jeopardized the continuity of inspectors’ knowledge of the program.

According to Sunday’s report on Iranian state TV, the recorded footage will be handed over to the IAEA only if the next round of talks, due to start in Vienna in the coming days, lead to a final agreement between Iran and the U.S. Otherwise, the material will be “deleted once and for all”, the person close to Iran’s Supreme National Security Council was quoted as saying.

Rouhani is eager to restore the accord and secure the removal of Trump’s tough sanctions regime before he leaves office later this year. Reviving the nuclear deal will loosen restrictions on Iranian oil exports, the nation’s main source of foreign currency revenue.

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