Iran MPs push bill to disregard nuclear restraints

IAEA chief Rafael Grossi said it was “essential to give the world the necessary and credible assurances that there is no deviation from the nuclear program to military uses”.
Tuesday 01/12/2020
Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Rafael Mariano Grossi speaks during an interview in Vienna on November 30, 2020.  (AFP)
Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Rafael Mariano Grossi speaks during an interview in Vienna on November 30, 2020. (AFP)

TEHRAN--A bill requiring Iran’s government to step up uranium enrichment closer to the level needed for a nuclear weapon, and ignore other restraints on its nuclear programme agreed with major powers, cleared its first hurdle in parliament on Tuesday.

But the government said the move, proposed in response to the assassination of a top nuclear scientist on Friday, could not change Iran’s nuclear policy, which was the province of the Supreme National Security Council.

“Death to America! Death to Israel!” some lawmakers chanted after the hardline-dominated parliament cleared the draft at its first reading in a session broadcast live on state radio.

Parliament has often demanded a hardening of Iran’s position on the nuclear issue in recent years, without much success.

“The government believes that, under the constitution, the nuclear accord and the nuclear programme… are under the jurisdiction of the Supreme National Security Council… and parliament cannot deal with this by itself,” government spokesman Ali Rabiei told reporters, according to state media.

The bill still needs approval in a second reading and endorsement by a clerical body to become law.

Iran has already breached the limits set in its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, who scrapped sanctions in return for curbs to Iran’s nuclear programme, to protest at Trump’s withdrawal from the accord.

The legislation was proposed in the wake of the assassination of top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh on Friday, and the hardline-dominated parliament cleared the draft on the first reading in a session broadcast live on state radio.

In the rhetorical storm about reactions to the killing, Iranians leaders seemed to shift towards using the nuclear card instead of undertaking a retaliatory act that could risk sparking the wrath of Trump during his last weeks in office. They also know that striking at Israel or Israeli interests will trigger a no-holds-barred reaction from Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

The head of Iran’s Expediency Council Mohsen Rezai called on Iran’s atomic agency to take “minimum measures” such as “stopping the online broadcast of cameras, reducing or suspending inspectors and implementing restrictions in their access” to sites, ISNA news agency reported.

Iran’s parliament said the “best response” to the assassination would be to “revive Iran’s glorious nuclear industry.”

Iranian nuclear sites (Map)

It called for International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors to be barred from the country’s atomic sites, said the legislature’s news agency ICANA.

Some MPs previously accused inspectors of acting as “spies” potentially responsible for Fakhrizadeh’s death.

But the spokesman for Iran’s atomic energy organisation, Behrouz Kamalvandi, told IRNA on Saturday that the issue of inspectors’ access “must be decided on at high levels” of the Islamic republic’s leadership.

Iran has already breached limits in its nuclear deal with world powers to protest at a US withdrawal from the accord.

The maximum fissile purity to which it has enriched uranium has remained around 4.5%, above the deal’s 3.67% cap but below the 20% Iran has achieved before and the 90% required for a nuclear bomb.

The head of the UN’s nuclear agency said Iran does not have anything to gain from ending inspections of nuclear facilities.

Responding to calls by Iranian MPs to end inspections following the assassination of a top nuclear scientist, IAEA chief Rafael Grossi said it was “essential to give the world the necessary and credible assurances that there is no deviation from the nuclear program to military uses”.