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Iran parliament votes to reconsider ties with IAEA

From the Associated Press

Iran’s parliament Wednesday urged the government to reexamine its ties with the International Atomic Energy Agency because of a U.N. Security Council decision to impose sanctions against the country over its nuclear program.

The move signaled that Tehran was likely to reduce its cooperation with the United Nations’ Vienna-based nuclear watchdog agency.

The vote came four days after the Security Council voted to impose limited sanctions on Iran for its refusal to cease enrichment of uranium -- a process that can produce material for either nuclear reactors or bombs.

The United States and its European allies suspect that Iran’s nuclear program is a cover for developing a weapon, but Iran says it is strictly for generating electricity.

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The White House criticized the parliament’s decision, with spokesman Scott Stanzel saying it would “worsen the situation in the eyes of the world.”

The vote came as Iran’s foreign minister delivered a letter from hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican discussing the U.N. sanctions, Iran’s state-run news agency said.

Details of the letter were not released, but the Vatican said the pope emphasized his apolitical role in his brief meeting with Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki.

The measure passed by parliament said the government was “obliged to accelerate the country’s peaceful nuclear program and revise its cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency based on national interests.”

The bill was quickly approved by the Guardian Council, a constitutional watchdog controlled by hard-line clerics, said parliament Deputy Speaker Mohammad Reza Bahonar. It will take effect 15 days after it is signed by Ahmadinejad, an ardent supporter of Iran’s nuclear program.

A special committee was formed to determine how to implement the law, and it was unclear what steps Iran would take.

Legislators and newspapers have speculated that Tehran might restrict international inspections of its nuclear facilities.

Members of Iran’s ruling hierarchy had repeatedly urged the government to cut ties with the IAEA if the Security Council imposed sanctions.

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But parliament Speaker Gholam Ali Haddad Adel said the bill would not bind the government to a particular course of action.

“The bill gives a free hand to the government to decide on a range of reactions, from leaving the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to remaining in the International Atomic Energy Agency and negotiating,” he said.


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