x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Tehran may reduce access for IAEA

Iran's parliament will draft a bill to reduce relations with the UN nuclear watchdog, a powerful committee chairman said yesterday, in response to the latest round of sanctions over Tehran's nuclear programme.

Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech during the Turkish-Arab Economic Forum in Istanbul on June 10, 2010.
Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech during the Turkish-Arab Economic Forum in Istanbul on June 10, 2010.

TEHRAN // Iran's parliament will draft a bill to reduce relations with the UN nuclear watchdog, a powerful committee chairman said yesterday, in response to the latest round of sanctions over Tehran's nuclear programme. Describing the new sanctions resolution as "a politically [motivated], illegal and unacceptable move", Alaeddin Boroujerdi, chairman of parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, told Mehr News Agency that the committee will begin drafting a bill to downgrade Iran's co-operation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Sunday.

The announcement follows the UN Security Council vote on the fourth round of sanctions against Iran for refusing to halt its uranium enrichment programme. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, on Wednesday likened the sanctions resolution to "a used handkerchief that should be thrown into the dustbin". If approved by the parliament, the bill would force the government to considerably limit the IAEA's access to Iran's nuclear facilities or cut its ties completely.

Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran's ambassador to the IAEA, however, yesterday emphasised that the country will continue enrichment under the supervision of IAEA. "Iran will never put a halt to its enrichment programme and will continue these activities under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency," Mr Soltanieh was quoted as saying by IRNA, the state news agency. Iran's foreign ministry will only adopt a decision regarding reducing relations with the IAEA after examining the bill and all aspects of the new sanctions resolution, the ministry's spokesman, Ramin Mehmanparast, told ILNA, an independent news agency, yesterday.

Iranian officials have described the fresh sanctions as a "failure" for the US, which could not gather a unanimous vote among the 15 members of the Security Council, with Turkey and Brazil casting "no" votes and Lebanon abstaining. Iran has also for the first time levelled harsh criticism at China for endorsing the new resolution even though Beijing has endorsed all three previous rounds of UN sanctions.

Ali Akbar Salehi, the director of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, accused China of having surrendered to US pressures to endorse the new sanctions. "China used to call the US a paper tiger. I wonder what title is appropriate for China now considering its stance on the UNSC resolution for fresh sanctions on Iran," Mr Salehi told ISNA in an interview yesterday. Mr Salehi warned China of the consequences of its decision to back the US-initiated resolution and said Beijing would "lose its respected position in the Islamic world and will wake up when it is too late".

Iran had invested its hopes in China to prevent a new round of sanctions after it became disillusioned with Russia over its support for the fresh sanctions. Moscow's backing of the resolution led to an unprecedented explicit warning to Vladimir Putin, the Russian prime minister, by Mr Ahmadinejad himself two weeks ago. "I hope Russian leaders and officials ... [do] not let the Iranian nation consider them among its enemies," he said.

Russia and China, as permanent members of the Security Council, could have used their veto power to scupper the US-backed resolution. "It is not possible to comment on the approach taken by China and Russia but both countries were influenced by the US. It will be up to [Iran's] Supreme National Security Council to comment on this," Mr Boroujerdi told Mehr News Agency. He also reiterated that the Tehran Declaration signed by Turkey and Brazil last month for a fuel exchange programme was the only possible breakthrough in resolving the dispute.

"The US should know that they will not achieve anything taking the route [of sanctioning Iran] and that if they are seeking a solution [they will find it] in the Tehran Declaration". China still insists that the new sanctions are meant only to encourage Iran to return to diplomatic negotiations over its nuclear programme rather than shutting the door on dialogue. "China highly values relations with Iran and feels they are conducive to regional peace, stability and development," the Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang told reporters in Beijing yesterday.

Iran's condemnation of China comes as Mr Ahmadinejad arrived in Shanghai yesterday. Mr Ahmadinejad is in China, a long-time ally and top trade partner, to inaugurate the Iran Day ceremony at the World Expo on Friday. Plans for official meetings with top Chinese officials during Mr Ahmadinejad's visit have not been announced. Iran and China are targeting US$50 billion (Dh184bn) worth of trade in the next few years, Mehdi Safari, Iran's ambassador to China, was quoted by IRNA as saying yesterday on the sidelines of the World Expo in Beijing.

"Harsh criticism of the Chinese will most probably be left to lesser officials to do. Although Iran is very much disappointed with China for applying dual standards to the nuclear programmes of North Korea and Iran, giving strong support to one and approving sanctions against the other, it can't afford to alienate it at this point," an analyst in Tehran said on the condition of anonymity. msinaiee@thenational.ae