Middle East - AP
Iran Parliament OKs Nuke Enrichment Bill
Sun Oct 31,10:17 AM ET Middle East - AP
By ALI AKBAR DAREINI, Associated Press Writer
TEHRAN, Iran - To shouts of "Death to America,"
Iran's parliament unanimously approved the outline of a bill Sunday that would require the government to resume uranium enrichment, legislation likely to deepen an international dispute over Iran's nuclear activities.
Slideshow: Iran Nuclear Issues
Iran Parliament OKs Nuke Enrichment Bill
Still, Iran's top nuclear negotiator Hossein Mousavian told The Associated Press there was a 50 percent chance of a nuclear compromise with European nations.
He ruled out an indefinite suspension of key enrichment activities — a concession that European negotiators have sought — but suggested Iran would consider calling a halt to building more nuclear facilities.
The talks with the Europeans aim at averting a standoff over Iran's nuclear weapons program at a Nov. 25 meeting of the U.N. nuclear watchdog.
The Europeans have offered to provide nuclear fuel and technology if Tehran reins in its ambitions to develop its own fuel — by creating enrichment facilities that can be used for peaceful purposes or for creating weapons.
Some lawmakers broke out with shouts of "Death to America!" after the conservative-dominated parliament after lawmakers voted to advance the nation's nuclear program, an issue of national pride that provides a rare point of agreement between conservatives and reformers.
Parliament speaker Gholam Ali Haddad Adel called Sunday's vote a message to the world.
"The message of the absolute vote for the Iranian nation is that the parliament supports national interests," he said. "And the message for the outside world is that the parliament won't give in to coercion."
The legislation said the goverment is "required to make use of scientists and the country's facilities ... in order to enable the country to master peaceful nuclear technology, including the cycle of nuclear fuel."
Another vote is expected on the bill when details are worked out, but that is usually a formality. A date for the second vote was not immediately set.
Washington has pushed hard for Iran to drop its nuclear program, which Tehran maintains is for peaceful energy purposes. The United States, which has secured some support from European nations, accuses Iran of trying to build nuclear weapons.
Mousavian, Iran's top nuclear negotiator told the AP some progress "definitely" was made during last week's talks with Europeans, who he said "showed flexibility and understanding."
Britain, Germany and France have warned that most European states will back Washington's call to refer Iran to the U.N. Security Council for possible economic sanctions if Tehran doesn't give up all uranium enrichment activities before a Nov. 25 meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
"I see the chance of a compromise before November (25th) as 50-50," Mousavian said.
In two rounds of talks in Vienna, Austria, the Europeans offered Iran a trade deal and peaceful nuclear technology — including a light-water research reactor — in return for assurances Iran would indefinitely stop enriching uranium. Mousavian said a third round of talks is planned, but not yet scheduled.
"We have rejected two possibilities: cessation and unlimited suspension," he said. "We told the Europeans if your target is cessation, it will be impossible. But we are flexible if your proposal is balanced."
"The package should define a timetable," he said.
Mousavian indicated Iran is willing to consider a moratorium on building more nuclear facilities, which it would need to produce enough fuel for additional power plants. Iran already has facilities in Isfahan and Natanz, but Iranian officials say that at full capacity they would only be able to supply one power plant.
"It will take a minimum of five years for Iran to provide fuel for one nuclear power plant," Mousavian said. "If they guarantee nuclear fuel, we would welcome it. It will be the best guarantee not to go for expansion."
Uranium enriched to a low level can be used to produce nuclear fuel. If enriched further it can be used to make nuclear weapons.
Iran is not prohibited from enriching uranium under its obligations to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty but faces growing international pressure to suspend such activities as a good-faith gesture.
Iran, which repeatedly has refused to give up its nuclear program, last year suspended actual uranium enrichment. However, Tehran has rejected demands that it stop all other activities related to enrichment, such as building centrifuges.