Iran’s parliament backs nucular work
Move opposed by U.S., which wants to tighten controls on program

Updated: 7:57 a.m. ET May 15, 2005

TEHRAN, Iran - Iran’s parliament voted on Sunday to oblige the government to develop a nuclear fuel cycle -- an action opposed by Washington, which fears the Islamic Republic is seeking to acquire atomic weapons.

The vote will increase pressure on talks with France, Germany and Britain aimed at assuaging fears about Iran’s nuclear ambitions. The European Union trio persuaded Iran to suspend the fuel cycle last year to clear the way for talks, but Iranian officials frustrated with the sluggish pace of negotiations have threatened to restart nuclear activities.

London, Berlin and Paris have said a resumption would force them to back Washington’s plan to haul Tehran before the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions.

“The Europeans are trying to turn the suspension into a permanent cessation which is what we, the parliament, are rejecting outright today,” lawmaker Kazem Jalali said following the parliamentary vote, which was broadcast live on state radio.

The motion, which obliges Iran “to take action to obtain peaceful nuclear technology, including provision of the fuel cycle for generating 20,000 megawatts of electricity,” was approved by 188 out of 205 lawmakers present.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told reporters there was no choice but to do what parliament had decided. “The government is obliged to do whatever parliament says,” he said.

Iran says its nuclear fuel is needed only for peaceful power generation, not for weapons.

Last minute deal?
Iran sees the nuclear fuel cycle as an issue of national sovereignty, insisting it has every right to enrich the uranium ore it mines in its central deserts.

But the EU trio have demanded a guarantee of Iran’s goodwill, saying that only by dropping domestic production and importing the nuclear fuel needed for power stations can it prove its peaceful intentions.

Iranian negotiator Sirus Naseri told Reuters on Saturday that the EU trio was softening its stance, however, and could soon reach an agreement that would allow Tehran to resume parts of its disputed fuel cycle.

EU diplomats -- who two weeks ago said they were far from a deal -- were not immediately available to comment.

Naseri said Iran was delaying an announcement on resuming fuel cycle activities while high-level talks with the European Union are planned. Diplomatic sources say senior Iranian negotiators and EU foreign ministers are set to meet in the next 10 days.

Many political analysts speculate that Iran is unlikely to spark a full blown international crisis before its presidential elections next month.

The current perception of a crisis point plays neatly into the hands of the leading candidate, political heavyweight and former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who has a reputation as a deal-maker.

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