AP: Iran’s hard-line parliament Sunday threatened to pass legislation that would force the government to withdraw from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Associated Press
By ALI AKBAR DAREINI
Associated Press Writer
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) – Iran’s hard-line parliament Sunday threatened to pass legislation that would force the government to withdraw from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
The move, which would put Iran in company with North Korea, came as Washington and its allies pressed for a U.N. Security Council vote to outlaw Tehran’s uranium enrichment program.
In a letter to United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan read on state-run radio, lawmakers said they would have “no option” but to ask the government to withdraw if the U.N. chief and the Security Council “fail in their crucial responsibility to resolve differences peacefully.”
While the Iranians used the word “peacefully,” they were widely seen as referring to a diplomatic solution, short of a Security Council vote and possible sanctions.
The U.S. is backing attempts by Britain and France to draw up a U.N. resolution that would declare Iran in violation of international law if it does not suspend uranium enrichment – a process that can produce fuel for nuclear reactors to generate electricity or, if sufficiently processed, to make atomic weapons.
The Western nations want to invoke Chapter 7 of the U.N. charter that would allow economic sanctions or military action, if necessary, to force Iran’s compliance. Russia and China, the other two Security Council members – all of whom have veto power – oppose such moves.
The U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, said Sunday he believed the resolution would move to a vote this week, with or without support from Moscow and Beijing. He dismissed the Iranian parliament’s threat, saying it would not deter a U.N. resolution.
“It shows they remain desperate to conceal that their nuclear program is in fact a weapons program,” he said.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said Sunday that Washington should consider direct nuclear talks with Iran, but added that “there has to be some kind of glimmer of hope or optimism before we sit down and give them that kind of legitimacy.”
McCain, a possible presidential contender in 2008, told CBS’ Face the Nation that Iran must renounce its call for the extinction of Israel.
Direct talks, McCain said, are “a tough decision, because here’s a country whose rhetoric daily continues to be the most insulting to the United States and to democracy and freedom.”
But, he said, “it’s an option that you probably have to consider.”
The Iranian letter said parliament might pass legislation ordering President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s government to review procedures for pulling out of the nuclear treaty, which signatories may do if they decide extraordinary events have jeopardized their “supreme interests.” The withdrawing nation must give fellow treaty members and the U.N. three months notice and a detailed explaination.
Iran’s threats recall the case of North Korea, which left the treaty in 2003. Last year Pyongyang declared it had nuclear weapons – unlike Tehran, which says its nuclear program is only for generating electricity.
North Korea agreed last September to give up its nuclear program in exchange for U.S. aid and security assurances, but negotiations have been stalled since November, mainly because of Pyongyang’s anger over U.S. sanctions for alleged currency counterfeiting and money laundering.
North Korea escaped punishment by the U.N. Security Council, but Iran’s possible departure from the treaty is likely to bring a tougher response.
Ahmadinejad restated his readiness to jetison treaty membership.
“If a signature on an international treaty causes the rights of a nation be violated, that nation will reconsider its decision and that treaty will be invalid,” he told the state news agency.
He called threats of sanctions “meaningless” and vowed to “smash their (U.S.-backed) illegitimate resolutions against a wall.”
Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said any U.N. resolution would be “completely illegal” and driven by politics.
“It’s clear that any action by the U.N. Security Council will leave a negative impact on our cooperation with the IAEA,” he said, adding that such action would “change the path of cooperation to confrontation.”
The International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. watchdog for compliance with the treaty, declared in 2002 that Iran had been conducting secret nuclear activities for decades, though it has never said Tehran has a weapons program.
Iran claims it has that right, including the privilege of enriching uranium, under its treaty membership, but its opponents claim it ceded that right by hiding parts of its nuclear program from the international community.
In February, Iran barred intrusive inspections of its nuclear facilities by the IAEA after it was referred to the Security Council. Iran said it had been implementing the agreement since 2003 voluntarily but it had not won domestic approval, as necessary, from parliament and the Guardian Council, a powerful oversight body dominated by Islamic hard-liners.
The Security Council then set a non-binding deadline for Iran to suspend all activities linked to enrichment by April 28. Iran refused, and a report that day by IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei said Iran was blocking IAEA efforts to determine whether it had – or has – designs on building a nuclear arsenal.
Iran declared yet again Sunday it would not give up uranium enrichment despite the building crisis.
“We won’t give up our rights and the issue of suspension (of enrichment) is not on our agenda,” Asefi said at his weekly briefing.