Iran threatens to pull out of nuclear treaty

news3_8_5.jpgTEHRAN (AP) — Iran’s hard-line parliament threatened Sunday to pass legislation that would force the government to withdraw from the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty — a move that would put Tehran in company with North Korea — as the United States and its allies pressed for a UN Security Council vote to outlaw Iran’s uranium enrichment programme.

In a letter to UN 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 UN 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 US is backing attempts by Britain and France to draw up a UN 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.

Iran’s antagonists want to invoke Chapter 7 of the UN 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 can veto any measures by the organisation as a whole — oppose such moves.

The US 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 UN resolution.

“This is a typical Iranian threat. It shows they remain desperate to conceal that their nuclear program is in fact a weapons programme,” he said. “I’m confident that these statements from Iran will not deter the sponsors of the draft resolution from proceeding in the Security Council.” The Iranian letter said parliament might pass legislation ordering President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s government to review procedures for pulling out of the NPT, which signatories may do if they decide extraordinary events have jeopardised their own “supreme interests.” The withdrawing nation must give fellow treaty members and the UN three months notice and details of reasons for the decision.

Iran’s threats recall the case of North Korea, which bailed out of the treaty in 2003. Last year Pyongyang declared it had nuclear weapons — unlike Tehran, which admits a nuclear programme but says it is designed only to make fuel for reactors to generate electricity.

North Korea agreed last September to give up its nuclear programme in exchange for US aid and security assurances, but negotiations have been stalled since November, mainly because of North Korea’s anger over US sanctions for alleged currency counterfeiting and money laundering.

Pyongyang escaped punishment by the UN Security Council, but Tehran’s possible departure from the NPT is likely to bring a tougher response.

Ahmadinejad also restated his readiness to jetison NPT 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 [US-backed] illegitimate resolutions against a wall.”

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