Iranian bill backs drive for nuclear energy

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TEHRAN: To cries of “death to America” and “God is greatest”, Iran’s hardliner-dominated parliament passed a bill on Sunday obliging the government to press ahead with efforts to develop a nuclear energy programme.

The bill did not specifically order the government to resume uranium enrichment immediately or to end snap UN inspections of atomic facilities, as some lawmakers had demanded, but the outline bill, approved by all 247 deputies present in the 290-seat chamber, called on the authorities to continue work on the nuclear fuel cycle that includes uranium enrichment - a clear rejection of the UN atomic watchdog’s demand that Iran halt such activities.

The text tells the government “to take action for the country to master civilian nuclear technology, especially in the fuel production cycle”. Uranium enrichment can be used both to produce nuclear power and to make atomic bombs.

“The message of this bill is that we will not give in to pressure ... The Iranian nation is determined to use peaceful nuclear technology,” said Parliament Speaker Gholamali Haddadadel, after the bill was approved.

The European Union has urged Iran to freeze uranium enrichment before the next meeting of the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on November 25. Failure to do so could mean Iran’s case will be referred to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions.

Political analysts believe the parliamentary debates on the nuclear programme aim to send a message to the outside world that hardliners in Iran could force the government to adopt a tougher line if too much diplomatic pressure were put on Tehran.

Lawmakers who advocate resuming uranium enrichment said the bill approved on Sunday was too soft. “We must vote for a bill which puts an end to the voluntary suspension of uranium enrichment instead,” said MP Saeed Abutaleb.

Iran is not currently enriching uranium, but it is building and assembling enrichment centrifuge parts and has announced plans to convert tonnes of raw uranium ready for enriching.

EU negotiators will meet their Iranian counterparts in Paris on Friday for a third round of discussions on forging a truce over the nuclear issue. Hoping to persuade Iran to scrap its nuclear fuel cycle activities, the EU is offering Tehran a guaranteed supply of nuclear fuel, help with a light-water nuclear power reactor and a resumption of trade talks.

So far Iran has said it is entitled to produce its own nuclear fuel and will not give up that right.

In a symbolic move to show popular support for the nuclear programme, students plan to form a human chain around the Iranian Atomic Energy Organisation’s buildings in Tehran on Monday. reuters

When a governing body cries "death to america" as it votes to support uranium enrichment, I tend to view that governing body as a threat.