Iran likely to extend UN nuclear monitoring deal by a month
Iran is likely to extend a U.N. nuclear inspections agreement by one more 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 has roiled oil markets and almost sparked a war between the two sides. The IAEA 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 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 the next month.
"We are fully prepared to go back to the original deal as it was," U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken told CNN, adding that he had yet to see whether the Iranians are on the same page.
"The U.S. has clearly expressed readiness to lift sanctions under the nuclear deal," President Hassan Rouhani said in an earlier statement published on his official website. "We will continue talks until a final agreement."
The IAEA is expected to provide a briefing on the latest developments on Iran later on Sunday in Vienna.
Tehran has threatened to erase recorded video material after 90 days unless sanctions were lifted. IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano 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.