The head of the United Nations' nuclear watchdog has met with Iranian officials in a bid to preserve his inspectors' ability to monitor Tehran's atomic programme – even as authorities said they planned to cut off their surveillance cameras at those sites.
Rafael Grossi's arrival in Tehran came as Iran tries to pressure Europe and the new Biden administration into returning to the 2015 nuclear deal, which President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the US from in 2018.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif said, after a law was passed by parliament, the cameras of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) would be shut off.
"This is not a deadline for the world. This is not an ultimatum," Mr Zarif told the government-run, English-language broadcaster Press TV in an interview aired during Mr Grossi's visit.
"This is an internal domestic issue between the parliament and the government.
"We have a democracy. We are supposed to implement the laws of the country. And the parliament adopted legislation – whether we like it or not."
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 nuclear deal.
The IAEA has additional protocols with a number of countries it monitors.
With Iran, the IAEA "collects and analyses hundreds of thousands of images captured daily by its sophisticated surveillance cameras", the agency said in 2017.
Mr Zarif said in his interview with Press TV, authorities would be "required by law not to provide the tapes of those cameras".
It was not immediately clear if that also meant the cameras would be turned off entirely, with the Iranian Foreign Minister calling that a "technical decision... not a political decision".
"The IAEA certainly will not get footage from those cameras," he said.
IAEA said last week that Mr Grossi's visit was aimed at finding "a mutually agreeable solution for the IAEA to continue essential verification activities in the country".
In December, Iran's parliament approved a bill that would suspend part of UN inspections of its nuclear facilities if European signatories do not provide relief from oil and banking sanctions by Tuesday.
Cover image: Iranian military during parade in Tehran (Picture: PA).