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Iran gives OK to signing nuclear protocol

Iran’s government has given the go-ahead for the country to sign an international protocol binding it to tough, snap inspections of its nuclear facilities, Iranian officials said on Wednesday.
/ Source: Reuters

Iran’s government has given the go-ahead for the country to sign an international protocol binding it to tough, snap inspections of its nuclear facilities, Iranian officials said on Wednesday.

“The Foreign Ministry was given permission by the government to sign the Additional Protocol” to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Vice-President Mohammad Ali Abtahi told reporters after a weekly cabinet meeting.

Abtahi and government spokesman Abdollah Ramazanzadeh declined to say exactly when Iran would sign the protocol.

Iran agreed to sign up to tougher nuclear inspections in October after concerted international pressure for it to dispel U.S.-led concerns it may be developing nuclear arms.

Iran pledges compliance
Implementation of the protocol could still face other government hurdles, but these are widely expected to be cleared and Iran has promised to put it into effect.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) last month strongly condemned Iran for an 18-year cover-up of sensitive nuclear research and warned it that no further breaches of its non-proliferation obligations would be tolerated.

Iran, which has also agreed to suspend uranium enrichment in a confidence-building measure, insists its nuclear programme is entirely peaceful and not geared to weapons production.
Ramazanzadeh said the protocol would be signed in Vienna by Iran’s representative to the IAEA.

After the signature, “the government will send it to parliament as a bill,” he said.

Guardian Council in pivotal role
If approved by lawmakers, the majority of whom are allies of President Mohammad Khatami, the bill would then need to be sent to the Guardian Council, a 12-member body dominated by conservative clerics who decide whether proposed legislation is in accordance with the constitution and Islamic Sharia law.

The Guardian Council has been a thorn in the side of Khatami and his allies in recent years, rejecting many reformist proposals. Several of its members spoke out strongly against signing up to tougher nuclear inspections earlier this year.

Nevertheless, dissenting voices among Iran’s hardliners towards the protocol have been virtually absent in recent weeks and Iran has promised to implement the protocol even before it is ratified by parliament.

The European Union said on Monday it would wait for the IAEA’s next report on Iran early next year before resuming talks with Tehran on a potentially lucrative trade pact.