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Iran Parliament Approves Bill On Nukes

File photo of Iran's parliament, which on Sunday approved the outlines of a bill that would force the government to resume the country's uranium enrichment program.
Tehran, Iran (UPI) Nov 1, 2004
In a move intended to strengthen Iran's position in its negotiations with the European Union next week, the Iranian Parliament Sunday approved the outlines of a bill that would force the government to resume the country's uranium enrichment program. The act is a direct challenge to the EU, which has been considering concessions if Iran agrees to abandon the program, whereas U.N. sanctions have been threatened if it does not.

The bill, passed with a strong majority of 238 votes out of the 290-seat Parliament, urges the government to utilize scientists, researchers and facilities to follow up its commitments to the International Atomic Energy Agency in regard to the country's access to nuclear technology for peaceful purposes including work on fuel cycles.

Iran is under international pressure to abandon uranium enrichment, a process that makes fuel for civilian reactors but which could also be used to produce weapons-grade material.

In a deal signed in October last year with three key European Union states - Britain, France and Germany - Iran agreed to suspend the program, but has since resumed such related activities as the production of yellowcake or uranium ore and making it into hexafluoride feed gas as well as the manufacture of centrifuges which refine uranium.

Iran insists the uranium would be used only for generation of electricity, an assertion the United States has cast doubt on.

Iran and the EU nations have already met twice this month in Vienna ahead of an IAEA meeting on Nov. 25 that will decide the agency's stance on the Iranian nuclear program. With no agreement reached yet on a package of proposals to allay international concerns, Iranian officials are due to meet their counterparts on Friday in Paris for a third round of talks on the issue.

Speaking after the vote, Parliament Speaker Gholam Ali Haddad Adel said the bill would determine the framework for the Iranian delegation in conducting future negotiations.

The ratification lightens the atmosphere for wise negotiations, he said, adding that the move also conveyed a message to the outside world that Iran would never yield to (international) pressure.

When asked whether the bill would contradict agreements between the Iranian delegation and the EU big trio, he said, When we set the limits of a playground, we have not banned the game.

In response to a question on the possible costs Iran would have to pay if it resumed uranium enrichment, Haddad Adel said, To us, no cost is dearer than depriving a nation of its inalienable right.

We are absolutely ready to defend our national interests. Even if Iran's dossier is referred to the United Nations Security Council, there will be nothing in it to be taken up against Iran.

In return for a halt to its enrichment program, Iran has been offered a batch of incentives, including a guarantee of the country's right to peaceful nuclear technology, a promise to support the Islamic republic's international access to nuclear fuel and an offer to help Iran get a light-water research reactor if Tehran gives up plans to build a heavy-water reactor which is under construction at the central city of Natanz. The heavy-water plant could produce more fissionable material such as weapons-grade plutonium.

Iran also declared Monday - as part of its nuclear fuel cycle activities - that a uranium conversion plant was nearing completion in the central city of Isfahan.

Right now, the Isfahan UCF (uranium conversion facility) is 70 percent operational, Mohammad Ghanadi, deputy head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization told state television.

I can say that 21 out of 24 workshops in this facility have become operational, he said, adding also that Iran's first uranium mine at Saghand in central Iran would become operational by March 2005. Iran has already said there are good prospects for more mines in other parts of the country.

Iran's state news agency IRNA quoted senior nuclear official Hussein Moussavian as having said Tuesday that Iran could take months to agree to the EU request as the offer was riddled with ambiguities and must be more balanced.

He also said asking Iran to stop enrichment altogether was illogical, and described the possible referral of Iran to the Security Council as an empty threat because he said the Security Council could not do anything serious against Iran - like an oil embargo - because it would double world oil prices.

What Iran is offering the Europeans instead is a series of objective guarantees and confidence-building measures to prove it is not diverting uranium for a weapons program. The country, however, must decide by mid-November about suspending uranium enrichment if it is to avoid possible U.N. sanctions, according to diplomats in Vienna.

IAEA chief Mohammad ElBaradei reportedly has said it would take his agency 10 days to verify suspension ahead of the meeting on Nov. 25.

All rights reserved. Copyright 2004 by United Press International. Sections of the information displayed on this page (dispatches, photographs, logos) are protected by intellectual property rights owned by United Press International. As a consequence, you may not copy, reproduce, modify, transmit, publish, display or in any way commercially exploit any of the content of this section without the prior written consent of by United Press International.

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MP's Aim To Force Iran To Resume Uranium Enrichment
Tehran (AFP) Oct 26, 2004
Iranian MPs are Sunday to debate a bill which would force the government to resume uranium enrichment in defiance of the international community, the official news agency IRNA reported. "Ninety-three deputies have signed the bill," said Rafaat Bayat, a conservative MP whose faction controls the 290-seat parliament, quoted by IRNA.

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