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The New Arab

Iran threatens to block UN inspectors if Trump escalates tensions

Hassan Rouhani is Iran's President [Getty]

Date of publication: 4 February, 2020

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Iran has threatened to block UN inspectors from entering the country if tensions with the United States continue to escalate.
Iran may reconsider providing United Nations inspectors with access to Iran's nuclear facilities if the country was confronted with "a new situation", its presidency said on Monday.

"The trend of inspections that has been carried out until today will continue, unless we face a new situation," Hassan Rouhani was quoted by state-news agency IRNA as saying, without any elaboration.

President Hassan Rouhani made his provocative remarks came during a meeting with Josep Borrell, the European Union's new foreign affairs chief, who was on his first visit to Iran since taking office.

Borrell's visit is seen as the latest move by the EU to save Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers. The last thread that may save the deal is one that permits international inspection of its atomic sites - a clause that is currently at threat.

Tensions between Iran and the US have skyrocketed since President Donald Trump withdrew from the nuclear agreement and re-imposed sanctions on Iran in 2018.

Tehran has responded by gradually rolling back its commitment to the deal in hopes of pressuring Europe into finding a way for Tehran to sell its crude oil abroad despite the American sanctions. 

The region has in the past two weeks has seen relative calm since a US drone strike killed the top Iranian General Qasem Soleimani.

Iran responded by firing ballistic missiles at US forces in Iraq, and announced it would no longer respect limits set on how many centrifuges it can use to enrich uranium.

Read more: Is Iran's nuclear deal still viable?

However, Rouhani assured Iran is ready for engagement with Europe.

"Whenever the other party fully implements its commitments, Iran will return to its commitments," he said.

In January, the UK, France and Germany triggered the accord's dispute mechanism to force Iran into discussions, starting the clock on a process that could result in the "snapback" of UN and EU sanctions on Iran.

Speaking with reporters in English, Borrell said "We are in agreement not to go directly to a strict time limit that would oblige to go to the (UN) security council".

"I asked to the Iranian authorities and I think they agree we have to continue with the survey of the International Atomic Energy Agency," said Borrell.

"We expect some positive steps on the nuclear side, and Iranians expect some positive steps in the economic side," he said, adding that those issues would be addressed in the coming weeks.

Borell said the EU is not interested in trying to end the 2015 nuclear deal, but to start a process that would “keep it alive.”

He also met with Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, and will meet other Iranian officials during his visit.

Trump, facing an impeachment trial and an election campaign, imposed new sanctions last week targeting the head of Iran's nuclear programme and the agency he directs.



Agencies contributed to this report

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