London, Asharq Al-Awsat—Iran’s parliament is pushing forward with plans to boost its role in the international talks on the country’s nuclear program, say reports, in a development that may herald a more hardline Iranian position in negotiations.
Iranian media said on Sunday that the speaker of the Iranian parliament, Ali Larijani, had proposed an initiative to expand parliamentary oversight of Iran’s nuclear program, including the ongoing talks with the P5+1, a group of states which includes the US, France, Germany and the UK.
The chairman of the parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, Mansour Haqiqat-Pour told the Iranian ISNA news agency: “Larijani proposed this initiative during his meeting with the National Security Committee, and the idea stipulates the drafting of a comprehensive project for nuclear activities and ratifying it by parliament.”
The legislator did not go into the details of the initiative, but he said: “Nuclear activities need a series of specific laws related to their use and their effect on the environment, where we can draft a comprehensive project for nuclear activities by revising laws related to this issue.”
After Larijani’s meeting with the Committee, Ismail Kowsari, one of its members, told journalists: “Larijani announced during this meeting that by drafting this project, we can use it whenever it is needed. The National Security Committee must make every effort to prepare this project.”
A number of Iranian MPs, including Larijani, have repeatedly called for Iran’s parliament to play a greater role in supervising the course of nuclear negotiations between Iran and the P5+1.
In April, Larijani said in a statement that “parliament will carefully supervise the forthcoming nuclear negotiations and will only consider as legitimate the negotiations which are held under parliamentary legislation.”
In the same statement, he criticized calls from the P5+1 for stricter safeguards on the Iranian nuclear program, which he said “have no legitimacy and lack legal standards.”
Under the terms of an interim agreement reached in November last year, Iran has agreed to impose some restrictions on its nuclear activities in return for limited relief on the crippling international sanctions that have been imposed on its energy and financial sectors.
A deadline for reaching a comprehensive agreement on Iran’s nuclear program expired on July 20, leading both sides to agree a four-month extension. While the US and its allies have expressed fears that Iran is covertly seeking the capability to build nuclear weapons, Tehran insists that its nuclear program is entirely peaceful.
Calls from Larijani and his parliamentary allies parallel those in the US Congress, where legislators have periodically called on the Obama administration to take a tougher line in the talks with Iran and push for more stringent restrictions on the Iranian nuclear program.
In the latest example, a number of Republican senators introduced a bill on July 23 that would require President Obama to notify Congress of any agreement reached between Iran and the P5+1, and give legislators the opportunity to reject the deal and impose additional sanctions.
Both developments are likely to raise fears that hardliners in both the Iranian parliament and the US Congress will complicate efforts by negotiators to reach a final, comprehensive agreement by imposing conditions the other side finds unacceptable, or refusing to ratify a deal reached by negotiators from the two sides.
Larijani’s calls follow previous expressions of unease among hardliners that the Rouhani administration was taking too soft a line in the nuclear talks.
A number of Iranian news agencies published reports in January which said a team was formed to supervise the Iranian nuclear negotiators, but government officials and the Foreign Ministry denied any knowledge of the existence of such a team.
A number of hardline MPs at the Iranian parliament, who are opposed to the interim nuclear agreement signed last November, have expressed anger at the make-up of the current team of Iranian nuclear negotiators.
They said all members of the nuclear negotiation team were supporters of President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, and demanded that a number of MPs be added to the team. The legislators’ calls were not implemented, however, because of President Rouhani’s objections to the idea.