UN nuclear watchdog chief starts Tehran talks as deadline looms

The head of the UN nuclear watchdog met Iran's atomic energy chief in Tehran Sunday, hours before a deadline set by the Islamic republic to limit inspections by the agency if US sanctions are not lifted.

The visit comes amid stepped-up efforts between US President Joe Biden's administration, European powers and Iran to salvage the 2015 nuclear deal that has been on the brink of collapse since Donald Trump withdrew from it.

Rafael Grossi, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), arrived in Tehran late Saturday and met with the head of the Iran Atomic Energy Organisation, Ali Akbar Salehi, early Sunday, TV images showed.

The end-of-Sunday deadline, set months ago by Iranian lawmakers, carries the threat of a suspension of some nuclear inspections from Tuesday, but Iran has stressed it will not cease working with the IAEA or expel its inspectors.

Iran has notified the UN body it will suspend "voluntary transparency measures" -- notably inspection visits to non-nuclear sites, including military sites suspected of nuclear-related activity -- if the US fails to lift the sweeping sanctions Trump reimposed in 2018.