x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Iran parliament chief warns over nuclear pressures

Speaker tells legislators they can intervene in nuclear talks with calls for stepped-up atomic work if the West presses too hard for concessions.

TEHRAN // Iran’s parliament speaker warned on Sunday that legislators could intervene in nuclear talks with calls for stepped up atomic work if the West presses too hard for concessions.

The message from Ali Larijani – less than a week after talks resumed – appears aimed at both envoys from the West and Iran’s negotiation team, which is led by the foreign minister, Mohammed Javad Zarif.

It also highlights the political jockeying inside Iran between backers of the moderate-leaning Iran president, Hassan Rouhani, and hardliners wary of his outreach to Washington.

Mr Larijani’s comments follow appeals by some members of the US Congress to tighten sanctions on Iran despite the nuclear negotiations and historic diplomatic breakthroughs last month, including the telephone conversation between the US president, Barack Obama, and Mr Rouhani.

Mr Larijani, meanwhile, told Iran’s representatives that parliament would not permit world powers to impose “special measures” on the country beyond the obligations laid out by the UN treaty overseeing nuclear activity, such as UN monitoring and inspection.

Iran’s ruling clerics approve all major policies and decisions, but parliament holds enough clout to potentially disrupt talks in response to Western demands to curb the programme.

Such resistance from Iran’s parliament could throw doubts on Mr Rouhani’s ability to strike a deal with world powers in the same way that protests in Congress could stand in the way of potentially easing sanctions.

Details from last week’s talks have remained tightly guarded, but short-range priorities have been made clear.

The US and allies seek to roll back Iran’s highest-level uranium enrichment, which is several steps away from weapons grade. Iran wants the West to start withdrawing sanctions, which have hit its vital oil exports.

The next round for talks is scheduled in Geneva next month between Iran and a six-nation group, the permanent UN Security Council members and Germany.

The West and others fear that Iran could eventually produce a nuclear weapon. Iran insists it only seeks reactors for energy and medical use.

*Associated Press