Parliament approves bill to block UN nuclear agency inspections

TEHRAN (AP) — Raising the stakes before a possible showdown at the UN nuclear agency, Iran’s parliament on Sunday approved a bill requiring the government to block in-depth inspections of its nuclear facilities if the nation is referred to the Security Council for possible sanctions.
Of 197 lawmakers present, 183 voted in favour of the bill.

The session was broadcast live on state-run radio, four days before an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) board is to consider referring Tehran to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions, because of its nuclear programme.

When the bill becomes law, as expected, it is likely to strengthen the government’s hand in resisting international pressure to permanently abandon uranium enrichment, a process that can be used to produce fuel for nuclear reactors or for an atomic bomb.

The United States charges that Iran is trying to build a nuclear weapon. Iran says its nuclear programme is for generating electricity.

The bill will now go to the Guardian Council, a hard-line constitutional watchdog, for ratification. The council is expected to approve the measure.

“If Iran’s nuclear file is referred or reported to the UN Security Council, the government will be required to cancel all voluntary measures it has taken and implement all scientific, research and executive programmes to enable the rights of the nation under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT),” lawmaker Kazem Jalali quoted the bill as saying.

Cancelling voluntary measures means Iran would stop allowing in-depth inspections of its nuclear facilities by the IAEA and would resume uranium enrichment.

Iran resumed uranium-reprocessing activities at its Isfahan Uranium Conversion Facility in August, a step before enrichment. It has said it preferred a negotiated solution to begin uranium enrichment.

Iran has been allowing IAEA inspectors to carry out short-notice inspections of its nuclear facilities.

The US and Europeans want Iran to permanently halt uranium enrichment, a technology that gives Iran the capacity to produce materials for a nuclear bomb if it decides to.

Iran says the NPT allows it to pursue a nuclear programme for peaceful purposes, and that it will never give up the right to enrich uranium to produce nuclear fuel.

“Through this bill, we are declaring to Europe that referring Iran to the UN Security Council means Europeans are pushing the region towards a crisis,” Jalali told the chamber before the vote.

“If it happens, it will impose a heavy cost on the world, the region and European countries themselves,” he said.

Vice President Gholamreza Aghazadeh, who is also the head of Iran’s nuclear programme, said the vote carried a message for both Europe and the IAEA that Iran won’t give up its legitimate rights to develop a nuclear fuel cycle.

In May, the Guardian Council ratified into law a parliamentary bill that compelled the government to continue the nuclear programme, including uranium enrichment activities. The law set no timetable, however, allowing the government room for manoeuvre in its negotiations with Europeans.

The 35-member IAEA board of governors meets on Thursday, and in a preparatory report, the UN agency found that Iran had received detailed designs from the illicit network run by Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of Pakistan’s nuclear programme.

His network supplied Libya with information for its now-dismantled nuclear weapons programme, which included an engineer’s drawing of an atomic bomb.

The document given to Iran in 1987 showed how to cast “enriched, natural and depleted uranium metal into hemispherical forms,” said the confidential IAEA report.

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