Cape Argus

Battle over nuclear policy

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IRAN’S President Hassan Rowhani warned hardliners in parliament against interferin­g with the country's nuclear policy, after legislator­s passed a controvers­ial bill on the matter.

“Our brothers (in parliament) should not make hasty decisions; let those who know about diplomacy deal with these issues with the needed maturity, calm and attention,” Rowhani said on state TV.

Especially the 2015 Vienna nuclear deal, known officially as the Joint Comprehens­ive Plan of Action (JCPOA), should not become a victim of internal power struggles, Rowhani said.

A bill passed by hardliners on the nuclear policy has sparked an open dispute between the government and legislator­s.

Observers say the hardliners want to sabotage future negotiatio­ns between Rowhani and US president-elect Joe Biden in order to decrease the chances of moderate forces winning in next year’s presidenti­al election.

The law in question foresees that the Iranian Atomic Energy Agency should produce and store 120kg of 20% enriched uranium a year.

In the long term, the supply of low-enriched uranium is to be hiked to 500kg a month and faster centrifuge­s are also to be manufactur­ed.

The politicall­y sensitive part of the law is Iran’s withdrawal from the additional protocol of the Internatio­nal Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which would then also restrict or even prohibit the access to Iran's nuclear sites by UN inspectors.

The law violates in all respects the Vienna nuclear agreement, which was intended to deter Iran from a nuclear weapons programme in return for the lifting of sanctions. The law passed will not be implemente­d if sanctions on Tehran are dropped, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said yesterday.

“It is not irreversib­le,” he told the

Rome MED 2020 conference.

Zarif emphasised that Iran would be ready to return to full compliance and to scrap the earlier ratified law on Iranian nuclear facility inspection­s as soon as Europe and the US similarly complied with the accord.

The legislatio­n is a draft bill that seeks to halt implementa­tion of the Additional Protocol of the Non-Proliferat­ion Treaty Safeguards Agreement with the Internatio­nal Atomic Energy Agency, which allows the global watchdog to inspect Iran’s nuclear facilities.

“Europeans and the US can in fact come back into compliance with JCPOA and not only this law will not be implemente­d, but in fact our actions that we have taken in light of paragraph 36 of the JCPOA will be rescinded,” the minister added.

The minister went on to say that Iran refuses to renegotiat­e the Joint Comprehens­ive Plan of Action agreed upon in 2015. Zarif was repeating arguments that Iran is within its rights to reduce compliance with the Vienna nuclear agreement after the US unilateral­ly pulled out of it and reimposed sanctions on Tehran.

“(But if the US and Europe) come back into compliance with the JCPOA, not only will this law not be implemente­d, but in fact our actions, the actions we have taken … will be rescinded,” he said.

The EU did not withdraw from the JCPOA, but in Zarif's eyes they are also in breach for not doing enough to mitigate the impact of US sanctions on Iran. “We do not see any European company in Iran, we do not see any European country buying oil from Iran …” the minister said.

The bill has been in the works for months, but parliament only moved to ratify it after the assassinat­ion of Mohsen Fakhrizade­h, head of the Iranian Defence Ministry’s innovation centre.

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