Reuters: Hardline lawmakers, who control a majority in Iran’s parliament, on Tuesday introduced a bill which would force
the government to resume uranium enrichment and halt snap U.N. inspections of nuclear facilities. Reuters
By Paul Hughes
TEHRAN – Hardline lawmakers, who control a majority in Iran’s parliament, on Tuesday introduced a bill which would force the government to resume uranium enrichment and halt snap U.N. inspections of nuclear facilities.
The official IRNA news agency said lawmakers want to give the bill a “double urgency” status, meaning it could be discussed in parliament in the next few days.
If approved, the bill would bring Tehran into direct conflict with the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog which has given Iran until late November to halt all uranium enrichment activities or face being reported to the U.N. Security Council.
Government officials have said they would have no choice but to obey such a bill if approved by parliament. But diplomats believe Iran is using parliament as a bargaining tool ahead of key negotiations on its nuclear programme this week.
“They want us to think that we need to go easy on them or the hardliners in parliament will gain the upper hand,” one diplomat said. “Ultimately, parliament will do what the (Iranian) leadership wants it to do, not vice versa.”
Iran last year agreed to temporarily halt enriching uranium — which can produce bomb-grade material — and agreed to snap inspections of its nuclear facilities in a bid to counter U.S.-led charges that it has a covert nuclear arms programme.
Iran says its nuclear programme is solely aimed at generating electricity to meet booming demand.
“From the day the bill is approved the government would be obliged to stop the suspension of uranium enrichment as well as the temporary implementation of the additional protocol (on snap inspections),” lawmaker Rafat Bayat told IRNA.
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She said the bill had been submitted with support signatures from 93 of parliament’s 290 deputies.
The proposed bill comes as Iranian officials prepared to meet with negotiators from Britain, Germany and France in Vienna to discuss a possible deal to keep Iran’s case from being sent to the Security Council.
Iran’s top security official Hassan Rohani indicated on Monday that Tehran may agree to the first part of the EU trio’s deal — an indefinite freeze on uranium enrichment activities.
Iran is not currently enriching uranium, but it has resumed the manufacture and assembly of enrichment centrifuges and said it plans to convert nearly 40 tonnes of raw uranium to make it ready for enrichment.
The International Atomic Energy Agency, at its last meeting in September, called on Iran to halt all such activities.
Once the suspension is verifiably in place the EU trio have promised to negotiate a final solution to the Iran nuclear case.
This could involve help with a civilian nuclear energy programme and a possible trade deal with the EU in return for Iran scrapping its nuclear fuel cycle activities for good.
A European diplomat said there was concern Iran may agree to freeze enrichment and then drag out negotiations to buy time and ease political pressure just as it did a year ago when it struck a similar deal with Britain, Germany and France.
Bayat, said the bill’s preamble accused the EU of trying to force Iran to halt its nuclear fuel activities and buy its reactor fuel from abroad.
“Lawmakers believe this demand is illegal and call for the annulment of the uranium enrichment suspension,” she said.