Iran OKs Bill to Block Nuclear Inspections
Nasser Karimi, The Associated Press:
Iran's hard-line constitutional watchdog approved a bill Saturday blocking international inspections of atomic facilities if the nation is referred to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions, state-run television reported. The ratification by the Guardian Council means the bill - overwhelmingly approved by parliament last month - now needs just a presidential signature to become law. It was not clear when that would take place. READ MORE
The bill will strengthen the government's hand in resisting international pressure to permanently abandon uranium enrichment, a process that can produce fuel for either nuclear reactors or atomic bombs.
Iran has been under intense pressure to curb its nuclear program, which the United States claims is part of an effort to produce weapons. Iran says its program is aimed at generating electricity.
While Iran has frozen its enrichment program, it restarted uranium conversion - a step toward enrichment - in August. The International Atomic Energy Agency has warned Iran that its nuclear program could be referred to the Security Council, which has the power to impose sanctions for violations of a nuclear arms control treaty.
"If Iran's nuclear file is referred or reported to the U.N. Security Council, the government will be required to cancel all voluntary measures," the bill says, meaning Iran would stop allowing in-depth inspections by the IAEA.
Iran has been allowing short-notice inspections of those facilities under a protocol to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
The United States and European Union want Iran to permanently halt uranium enrichment. But Tehran says the nonproliferation treaty allows it to pursue a nuclear program for peaceful purposes, and it maintains it will never give up the right to enrich uranium to produce nuclear fuel.
In May, the Guardian Council ratified a bill compelling the government to continue the nuclear program, including uranium enrichment activities. The law set no timetable, however, allowing the government room to maneuver during negotiations with the European Union.
Those talks with Britain, France and Germany broke off in August after Tehran restarted uranium conversion. Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said Wednesday that talks would resume within the next two weeks.