Iran will begin to offer United Nations inspectors "less access" to its nuclear programme as part of its campaign to put pressure on the West, the UN atomic watchdog’s chief has said.
Rafael Grossi, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said Iranian politicians will push forward with a law preventing snap inspections at facilities of interest.
However, speaking after an emergency trip to Iran, Mr Grossi said the IAEA had reached a "technical understanding" with Tehran to continue to allow monitoring of its nuclear programme for up to three months.
From Tuesday, the Iranian government will prevent 'additional protocol' allowing the IAEA to make short-notice visits to nuclear sites.
"The hope of the IAEA has been to stabilise a situation which was very unstable," Mr Grossi said at the airport after his arrival back in Vienna, where the agency is based.
"I think this technical understanding does it so that other political consultations at other levels can take place and most importantly we can avoid a situation in which we would have been, in practical terms, flying blind."
Mr Grossi offered few specifics of the agreement he had reached with Iranian leaders.
He said the number of inspectors on the ground would remain the same but that "what changes is the type of activity" the agency was able to carry out but stressed monitoring would continue "in a satisfactory manner".
It comes after Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said during a state TV interview prior to his meeting with Mr Grossi that the IAEA would be prevented from accessing footage from their cameras at nuclear sites.
Mr Zarif’s comments marked the highest-level acknowledgement yet of what Iran planned to do when it stopped following the so-called 'additional protocol', a confidential agreement between Tehran and the IAEA reached as part of the landmark 2015 nuclear deal.
The IAEA has additional protocols with a number of countries it monitors.
Under the protocol with Iran, the IAEA "collects and analyses hundreds of thousands of images captured daily by its sophisticated surveillance cameras", the agency said in 2017.
In 2018, then-president Donald Trump pulled the US unilaterally out of the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), saying it needed to be renegotiated and reimposed sanctions on Iran.
Other signatories - Germany, France, Britain, Russia and China - have insisted it is critical to keep the deal alive so that inspectors are able to continue to verify Iran's nuclear activities.
Iran is enriching and stockpiling uranium at levels far beyond those allowed by the JCPOA.
Earlier this month, Iranian state TV reported its supreme leader said the US must lift all sanctions if it wants Iran to return to the nuclear deal.
US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said President Joe Biden remained willing to negotiate with Iran over a return to the deal.
Cover image: Library photo of a nuclear plant in Iran (Picture: PA).