Iran’s President Mohammad Khatami said on Wednesday that an agreement to suspend uranium enrichment and sign up to snap nuclear inspections will have to be submitted to parliament for approval.
“IT WILL HAVE to be presented to parliament. It is like all other agreements,” he said.
The outcome of a vote on the agreement is uncertain because although parliament is dominated by pro-Khatami reformists, all legislation must go to hard-line supervisory body the Guardian Council.
Iranian hard-liners regard snap inspections as tantamount to allowing spies into the country.
Tehran agreed to the snap inspections and to freeze uranium enrichment on Tuesday in what three visiting European ministers hailed as a promising start to removing doubts about Iran’s atomic aims.
British, French and German foreign ministers flew to Tehran to try to persuade Iran to comply with an October 31 U.N. deadline to prove it has no atomic bomb ambitions as the United States alleges.
InsertArt(2048216)If Iran does not meet the deadline, the IAEA will likely turn to the U.N. Security Council, which could impose sanctions.
Iran also pledged to hand over long-sought information to the IAEA that should help it determine whether Tehran has tried to make nuclear weapons, diplomats said Tuesday in Vienna, where the agency is based.
U.S.: IRAN MUST ACT ON COMMITMENT
The White House cautiously welcomed Iran’s announcement on Tuesday.
“What’s important about today’s announcement is the commitment by Iran,” White House press secretary Scott McClellan said in Singapore, where he was traveling with President Bush. “What’s most important is that Iran fully comply and now implement what they’ve committed to.”
“It looks like they’re accepting the demands of the free world and now it’s up to them to prove that they’ve accepted the demands. It’s a very positive development,” President Bush said at a news conference in Bali, Indonesia, on Wednesday, with President Megawati Sukarnoputri.
In a later briefing with reporters aboard Air Force One, Bush was more cautious, saying: “First things first... The IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) must be allowed in ... International inspectors must be able to verify.”
But Bush held out hope that it could eventually “help our relations with Iran.”
Bush thanked the British, French and German foreign ministers “for taking a very strong universal message to the Iranians that they should disarm.”
After talks with the foreign ministers, the secretary of Iran’s powerful Supreme National Security Council, Hasan Rowhani, said Iran would sign an additional protocol to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty allowing inspectors to enter any site they deem fit without notice.
“The protocol should not threaten our national security, national interests and national pride,” he told reporters.
He added that for an “interim period,” Iran will suspend nuclear enrichment “to express its goodwill and create a new atmosphere of trust and confidence between Iran and the international community.”
There was no indication of when Iran would suspend its uranium enrichment or sign the additional protocol, and Rowhani did not say how long the interim period would last.
A joint statement by Iran, Britain, France and Germany issued at the conclusion of talks said that as a gesture of goodwill, Iran would cooperate with the IAEA “in accordance with the protocol” even before formally ratifying it.
Casting a shadow over the agreement, Iran’s official news agency, IRNA, later quoted Rowhani as saying Iran was not prepared to totally abandon its disputed uranium enrichment program.
“We believe that stopping enriching uranium is totally unacceptable and we think nobody agrees with that in Iran,” Rowhani reportedly said.
IAEA SEEKS ‘FULL DISCLOSURE’
While welcoming this news as a sign of progress, the IAEA made it clear that understanding Iran’s past nuclear activities was the top priority for the IAEA.
“Today’s news is an encouraging sign toward clarifying all aspects of Iran’s past nuclear program and regulating its future activities through verification,” IAEA head Mohamed ElBaradei said.
On Tuesday, ElBaradei said that during last week’s trip to Tehran he “received assurances that Iran would provide a full disclosure of all past nuclear activities.”
The diplomats in Vienna, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Iranian authorities promised to give the IAEA documentation Wednesday on the origin of traces of weapons-grade uranium from at least two different sites in Iran.
ElBaradei has called those traces, found in environmental samples by agency experts, the most troubling aspect of Iran’s nuclear activities.
Iran insists the contamination was imported on equipment it uses for peaceful nuclear purposes. But it had for months resisted IAEA requests that it identify the country of origin for the equipment so that experts can try to match isotope samples.
Once the agency knows where the equipment’s origin, it can test the truth of Iran’s claims.
If the traces found inside Iran do not correspond to samples from the country it names, then Iran would be hard put to deny assertions by the United States and its allies that it had produced its own highly enriched uranium for a weapons program.
Jack Straw of Britain, Joschka Fischer of Germany and Dominique de Villepin of France, who were in Iran to press it to meet the IAEA deadline, said that if Iran proves its nuclear program is only for energy production, they would make it easier for it to get nuclear technology.
Iran has said it is prepared to grant unfettered access to IAEA inspectors, but it wanted to be able to buy advanced nuclear technology. Iran accuses the United States of using its influence to block such purchases.
U.S. DOUBTS PROGRAM IS PEACEFUL
The United States strongly believes Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons, though Tehran insists its program is peaceful. Iran has allowed IAEA inspectors to view some sites, including at least one military facility — but for weeks it has hesitated at making a full commitment to the IAEA demands.
Iran is keen to stop the dispute from reaching the Security Council, which could declare Tehran in violation of the nonproliferation treaty and impose sanctions.
In the joint statement, the three foreign ministers recognized Iran’s right “to enjoy peaceful use of nuclear energy in accordance with the nonproliferation treaty.”
France, Britain and Germany agreed that “the full implementation of Iran’s decisions, confirmed by the IAEA director general, should enable the immediate situation to be resolved by the IAEA board,” the statement said.
The statement added: “Once international concerns, including those of the three governments, are fully resolved Iran could expect easier access to modern technology and supplies in a range of areas.”
De Villepin said the Europeans’ trip had achieved important progress on the three pending issues: signing and the early implementation of the additional protocol, full cooperation with the IAEA, and suspension of all enrichment and reprocessing activities.
Straw had spoken with Secretary of State Colin Powell about Tuesday’s meeting. Unlike the Bush administration, which has characterized Iran as being part of an “axis of evil,” London has sought to engage Tehran’s hard-line regime.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.