TEHRAN, (Reuters) – Lawmakers urged Iran’s government on Sunday to prepare a plan on reducing cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), after the U.N. body rebuked Tehran for secretly building a uranium enrichment plant.
Parliament’s move highlighted growing tension between the Islamic Republic and major powers seeking a diplomatic solution to a long-running dispute over Iranian nuclear work the West suspects is aimed at making bombs.
It is also likely to cast further doubt on any prospect of Iran accepting a U.N.-drafted nuclear fuel deal meant to allay international concern about its atomic activities, which Tehran says are aimed at generating electricity.
“Because of world powers’ hasty behaviour, the government should submit its plan over reducing Iran’s cooperation level with the agency,” MPs said in a statement read out in parliament, state radio reported.
Parliament can oblige the government to change the level of cooperation with the IAEA, as it did in 2006 after the Vienna-based agency voted to report Iran to the U.N. Security Council.
Friday’s resolution by the 35-nation IAEA board — which won rare backing from China and Russia — was a sign of spreading alarm over Tehran’s failure to dispel suspicions it has covert plans to build nuclear bombs, a charge Iran denies.
It urged Iran to clarify the original purpose of the recently disclosed Fordow enrichment site, hidden inside a mountain bunker, stop construction and confirm there are no more hidden sites.
The vote reflected exasperation with Iran’s retreat from an IAEA-brokered draft deal to provide it with fuel for a medical nuclear reactor if it agreed to part with its enriched uranium, which could be turned into bomb material if further refined.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said major powers would pursue harsher sanctions against Iran if it ignored the vote. But it was unclear whether the West could now coax Moscow and Beijing to join in tougher sanctions against Iran, something they have long prevented at the U.N. Security Council, which has imposed three rounds of punitive measures since 2006.
Iranian MP Mostafa Kavakebian, a member of the National Security and Foreign Policy committee, said the IAEA resolution showed that Moscow and Beijing were “not honest”, the semi-official Mehr news agency reported.
Iran’s Supreme National Security Council “should review the issue and make a clear stance regarding Russia and China’s position,” Kavakebian said.
An English-language daily, Iran News, said the IAEA resolution was a “blow” to Iran and asked whether Russia and China were still allies to the Islamic state.
“Iranian leaders have invested heavily in China and Russia in the past years, but every time these two countries have taken advantage of Iran for their own interests,” an editorial said.
Iran, the world’s fifth-largest crude exporter, has already denounced the IAEA resolution, with its ambassador to the IAEA on Friday calling it “intimidation” which would poison its talks with world powers.
Ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh also said it was a “hasty” step devoid of legal basis, adding Iran would not halt uranium enrichment, which can have both civilians and military purposes. He said Iran would continue to allow basic inspections at its nuclear sites but could stop making “voluntary gestures” of extra cooperation such as when it allowed widened surveillance at its rapidly expanding main enrichment complex at Natanz.
Iran says its atomic energy programme is purely for peaceful purposes, aimed at generating electricity.