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World & Nation

Iranian leadership approves nuclear program pact

Iran nuclear

In this photo taken Sunday, Iran’s parliament speaker Ali Larijani, center, speaks with lawmakers in an open session of parliament while discussing a bill on Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers, in Tehran.

(Ebrahim Noroozi / AP)

Iran’s Guardian Council gave its approval Wednesday to the landmark international accord that would lift certain economic sanctions against the Islamic Republic in exchange for constraints on its nuclear program.

The vote by the Guardian Council, composed of a dozen clerics and legal experts, follows similar action Tuesday by the Iranian parliament.

Those votes, along with the failure of Republican-led efforts in the U.S. Congress to scuttle the deal, open the way for implementation of the wide-ranging pact, a centerpiece of President Obama’s foreign policy agenda.

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Both approvals in Iran were widely expected, despite opposition to the deal from hard-liners opposed to any opening to the West. Iranian lawmakers approved the plan by a large margin after contentious debate.

Analysts say Iran would not have agreed to the accord with six world powers, including the United States, if the nation’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, had not signed off on the accord. Khamenei has the final word in all matters of state policy.

The supreme leader has not directly endorsed the nuclear deal, and has maintained his harsh criticism of the United States. Earlier this month he ruled out further negotiations with Washington.

But Khamenei has not rejected the accord outright and has praised the work of the negotiating team of President Hassan Rouhani, who has made it the major priority of his presidency. The deal has raised hopes among many in Iran for better economic times.

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Iranian officials have voiced expectations that the deal will spur international investment and help jump-start the country’s stagnated economy, hard hit by a range of international sanctions tied to its nuclear program.

Iran has maintained that its nuclear efforts are solely for peaceful purposes, such as energy generation. But the United States and its allies have suspected that Iran was seeking to build atomic weapons capability.

The deal hammered out in July between Iran and the world powers after marathon negotiations places limits on Iran’s nuclear efforts and gradually reduces nuclear-related economic sanctions on the Islamic Republic.

The deal mandates that Iran begin shutting down parts of its nuclear program in coming weeks, including decommissioning thousands of centrifuges that refine uranium.

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However, experts say the possibility exists for future disagreements about various contested points, including the thorny issue of United Nations inspectors’ access to military sites in Iran. Tehran says it reserves the right to ramp up “peaceful” nuclear activities in the case of a “violation” by the other signatories to the deal.

patrick.mcdonnell@latimes.com

McDonnell is a Times staff writer and Mostaghim is a special correspondent.

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