Iran ups nuclear tension with bill - reports

Last updated 08:30 26/12/2013

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Some 100 Iranian lawmakers introduced a bill in parliament that would force the government to increase uranium enrichment to 60 per cent if new sanctions are imposed on the Islamic Republic, state television reported this morning (NZT). 

The broadcaster said the bill would be put on parliament's agenda for a debate, but didn't say when it would discussed. The bill has to be approved by the 290-seat house and then be ratified by a constitutional watchdog in order to become law.

The bill is likely a response to a legislation introduced in the US Senate last week that would authorise new economic sanctions on Iran if it breaches the interim nuclear deal reached in Geneva last month or fails to strike a final agreement.

Under the deal, Iran agreed to limit its uranium enrichment to five per cent and neutralise its stockpile of 20-per cent enriched uranium in return for the easing of some sanctions and a pledge not to impose new ones.

Hossein Naqavi Hosseini, a member of the parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, said the bill, if approved, will give Iran's nuclear negotiators more leverage.

"The bill is designed to oblige the government to produce 60-per cent enriched uranium to fuel submarines and ships in case the other party imposes sanctions," the official IRNA news agency quoted him as saying. "If the US Congress introduces legislation to impose pressures on us, our parliament should also do that too."

But prominent lawmaker Hossein Sobhaninia said the bill will harm Iran and will only give more ammunition to the US and its allies to increase their pressure on Iran.

"We should not be in a hurry. Approving such legislation will give pretext to the other party," he said in comments posted on the parliament's official website. "We are committed to the Geneva deal."

Iran's hard-liners have called the deal a "poisoned chalice," challenging moderate President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif with the task of trying to convince skeptics that they are not compromising on key issues of national sovereignty.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say on all state matters, has supported Iran's nuclear negotiating team, calling them "sons of the revolution" and "our own children."

Iran's nuclear negotiating team have said the terms of the Geneva deal had been approved by the Supreme National Security Council, the country's top security decision-making body, in advance.

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- AP

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