A conservative Iranian legislator warned Saturday that his country may pull out of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty after a U.N. resolution censuring Tehran — a move that could seriously undermine world attempts to prevent Iran from developing atomic weapons.
Iran's official news agency quoted a hardline political analyst who made the same point, another indication the idea could be gaining steam.
If Iran withdraws from the treaty, its nuclear program would no longer be subject to oversight by the U.N. nuclear agency. That in turn would be a significant blow to efforts to ensure that no enriched uranium is diverted from use as fuel to warhead development.
The lawmaker's threat came a day after the board of the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency passed a resolution demanding Tehran immediately stop building its newly revealed nuclear facility near the holy city of Qom and freeze uranium enrichment.
"The parliament, in its first reaction to this illegal and politically-motivated resolution, can consider the issue of withdrawing from the NPT," Mohammad Karamirad was quoted as saying by the official IRNA news agency, referring to the treaty. "The parliament ... (also) can block the entry of IAEA inspectors to the country."
Karamirad, a senior lawmaker and member of the Iranian parliament's national security committee, does not speak for the government but his statements often reflect the government's thinking. His threat could be a tactic to warn the West of possible consequences if it pursues further action against Iran, such as strengthened sanctions.
Sunday decision possible
Another hardline lawmaker, Hossein Ebrahimi, was quoted by IRNA as saying that Iran's parliament will discuss the IAEA resolution on Sunday and will make a decision on how to react.
Iran's parliament has issued similar warnings in the past, most recently in 2006 when some lawmakers threatened to pull the country out of the nonproliferation treaty during another time of increased U.N. pressure over Tehran's nuclear program. Iran backed down, and the government has said that it has no intention of withdrawing from the treaty, which aims to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology.
Iran's government insists its nuclear program is meant only for peaceful purposes, though the U.S. and other Western nations suspect Tehran is seeking to acquire atomic weapons.
Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran's chief delegate to the U.N. nuclear agency, was also defiant Saturday in the face of the agency's fresh demands, saying on state television that Iran will limit its cooperation with the U.N. watchdog to its treaty obligations and will not cooperate beyond that.
"Our first reaction to this resolution is that they (the U.N. agency) should not expect us to do what we did several times in the past few months when we cooperated beyond our obligations to remove ambiguities," Soltanieh said.
He added that the country's nuclear activities will not be interrupted by resolutions from the U.N. nuclear agency's board, the U.N. Security Council or even the threat of military strikes against the facilities.
Ali Shirzadian, spokesman of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said his agency his ready to proceed with its nuclear projects.
"Technically speaking, we are fully prepared to produce fuel required for the Tehran reactor. To begin this, we are waiting for the order from top authorities," Shirzadian told the government-run Borna news agency.
Friday's resolution — and the resulting vote of the IAEA's 35-nation decision-making board — were significant on several counts.
The resolution was approved by 25 members of the 35-nation board — including the U.S., Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany — marking a rare measure of unity from the six world powers on Iran.
Moscow and Beijing have traditionally cautioned against efforts to punish Iran for its defiance over its nuclear program, either preventing new Security Council sanctions or watering down their potency.
The IAEA resolution criticized Iran for defying a U.N. Security Council ban on uranium enrichment — the source of both nuclear fuel and the fissile core of warheads.
It also censured Iran for secretly building a uranium enrichment facility, known as Fordo, and demanded that it immediately suspend further construction.
The resolution noted that IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei cannot confirm that Tehran's nuclear program is exclusively geared toward peaceful uses, and expressed "serious concern" that Iranian stonewalling of an IAEA probe means "the possibility of military dimensions to Iran's nuclear program" cannot be excluded.
The Iranian news agency also quoted hardline political analyst Mahdi Mohammadi as saying that the U.N. agency's resolution was forcing Iran to reconsider its membership in the nonproliferation treaty.
"The attitude of the agency is gradually bringing Iran and the rest of the developing nations to the conclusion that membership in NPT has no benefit but damage and restriction. In this case, the question that will be raised seriously is will continuation of this path serve Iran's national interests?" IRNA quoted him as saying.