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Iran: Government Reacts To IAEA Nuclear Resolution

As the Iranian government tries to come to grips with what could be the most harshly worded international statement on its nuclear program to date, the country's legislature is preparing a bill that would suspend implementation of the Additional Protocol of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).

The governing board of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) adopted on 24 September a tough resolution that says the nuclear watchdog, "after two and a half years of intensive inspections," remains unclear on "some important outstanding issues." "Iran's full transparency is indispensable and overdue," it continues, adding that the agency questions Iran's motives for not declaring certain factors and "pursuing a policy of containment." The resolution does not refer Iran to the UN Security Council, but it does hint at this possibility by noting that some of the outstanding questions are "within the competence of the Security Council."

The resolution was approved by a vote of 22 in favor, 1 against (Venezuela), and 12 abstentions.

Iranian officials initially tried to put a positive spin on this development. Javad Vaidi, spokesman for the Iranian delegation in Vienna, said on 24 September, "America and Britain have failed in their plan to refer Iran's nuclear case to the Security Council," Fars News Agency reported. Vaidi rejected the idea that the resolution expressed the concerns of the international community as a whole. "Today's decision at the Board of Governors against Iran's nuclear file was adopted under pressures exerted by America and Britain," he said.

'Illegal And Unacceptable'

The reaction in Tehran was slightly different. "In our view, this resolution is illegal and unacceptable," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi said, according to the Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) on 24 September. The fact that the resolution went to a vote, Assefi said approvingly, is a sign of the lack of consensus in the board.

Speaking at Mehrabad airport after his trip to New York, Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki was more reserved. "The Islamic republic will announce its stance on the resolution adopted by the governing board Saturday night within a few days," he said, according to the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported. This stance will undoubtedly reflect the foreign minister's consultations with President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and the Supreme National Security Council. "We insist on our sovereign rights and will use all diplomatic channels to defend these rights," Mottaki said. "But the resolution has no legal basis and is completely unacceptable."

'No Bullying'

The loudest expression of outrage came from the legislature. Speaker of Parliament Gholam Ali Haddad-Adel thanked Venezuela for its vote against the resolution and the other 12 countries for their abstentions, Iranian state radio reported. But he questioned how the resolution could ask Iran to ratify the Additional Protocol of the NPT, saying the legislature would never ratify an agreement that is contrary to Iran's rights. "[Iran] will not submit to bullying and irrational demands which are nothing but hostile excuses," Haddad-Adel said.

A statement from the legislature denounced the IAEA resolution as "unfair and dictatorial," state television reported, and said that Iran's "positive and transparent measures" had been ignored. The statement said the inspection privileges given to the IAEA went beyond what is legally required. The statement called on Ahmadinejad to hasten his implementation of the legislature's demand for the generation of 20,000 megawatts of nuclear power. The legislature also summoned Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali Larijani to discuss the issue.

Earlier in the day, the hard-line parliamentary representative from Tabriz, Hojatoleslam Seyyed Mohammad Reza Mir-Tajedini, said a bill to suspend implementation of the Additional Protocol has been prepared, Fars News Agency reported. One hundred parliamentarians have signed the bill already, he said, and more signatures are being collected.

The bill says the government must suspend its voluntary implementation of the Additional Protocol within a week of the country's nuclear file being referred to "any other organization of international center" -- the UN Security Council, in other words. Subsequently, Iran would only comply with the NPT and related safeguards agreements.

The House Of The Nation

The legislature's action is not, in practical terms, of overwhelming significance. The government adopted the Additional Protocol unilaterally in October 2003. When asked if parliamentary ratification was not required, government spokesman Abdullah Ramezanzadeh said at the time that the Supreme Leader had approved all the negotiations related to the Additional Protocol. "Given the fact that what has been accomplished so far has been approved by the highest authority in the land, it is not likely to face any difficulty," Ramezanzadeh said, IRNA reported on 22 October 2003.

The greater relevance of the legislature's action is that, as the "house of the nation," it is supposed to represent Iranians. Just as the legislators are portraying the IAEA governing board resolution as an insult and a violation of the country's sovereignty and rights, this is the impression that will be conveyed to the Iranian people. They are not likely to realize that international concern over the Iranian nuclear program relates to their government's two decades of deception and obfuscation, as well as to doubts about why a country that is so rich in oil and gas resources would need nuclear power.

For RFE/RL's complete coverage of the controversy surrounding Iran's nuclear program, see "Iran's Nuclear Program."