• Iran passes law forcing nuclear development
     | May 29,2005

    TEHRAN, Iran — Iran's hard-line Guardian Council on Saturday approved a law forcing Iran to develop nuclear technology, including uranium enrichment, an action aimed at strengthening Tehran's hand in negotiations with Europeans.

    The law's passage does not compel the government to resume uranium enrichment immediately, but it insists that Iran must pursue its nuclear goals even as international pressure over its ambitions are brought to bear.

    The Council's decision was a clear challenge to European negotiators trying to persuade Iran to abandon the program, a lawmaker said.

    "Approval of the parliamentary legislation into law by the Guardian Council means Europeans should forget the idea of asking Iran to permanently freeze its nuclear activities forever," said Nayereh Akhavan, a conservative lawmaker.

    Now Iranian negotiators will be required by law to pursue uranium enrichment and defend the development of nuclear fuel production facilities, she said.

    "No one will be in a position to ignore the law during negotiations with Europeans," she said. Akhavan represents Isfahan, a central city where the heart of Iran's nuclear facilities are located.

    Iran's conservative-dominated Parliament passed the bill on May 15, but the Guardian Council must vet all bills before they become law.

    The law calls on the government to develop a nuclear fuel cycle, which would include resuming the process of enriching uranium — a prospect that has drawn criticism from the United States and Europe because it could be used to develop atomic weapons.

    Iran suspended enrichment of uranium last November under international pressure led by the United States, which accuses Tehran of trying to make nuclear weapons.

    Iran, which maintains its program is peaceful and is aimed only at generating electricity, has long said its decision in November to suspend all uranium enrichment-related activities was voluntary and temporary. The Europeans had offered economic incentives in the hope of converting the temporary suspension into a permanent disbandment.

    Iranian officials have suggested accepting a permanent freeze of nuclear activities would bring down the government because the program is a matter of national pride.

    The legislation was viewed as strengthening the government's hand in negotiations with European Union representatives, allowing it to demonstrate domestic pressure to pursue its nuclear program since talks were deadlocked.

    France, Britain and Germany, acting on behalf of the 25-nation European Union, want Tehran to abandon its enrichment activities in exchange for economic aid, technical support and backing for Iran's efforts to join the World Trade Organization, or guarantees from Iran that it will not use its nuclear program to make weapons, as Washington suspects.

    In an interview with Germany's Der Spiegel news weekly published Saturday, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf said Iran was "anxious" to develop nuclear weapons. Musharraf also said a pre-emptive attack by the United States would be "a disaster."

    "That would provoke a rebellion in the Muslim world," Musharraf said. "Why open up new fronts?"

    Iran threatened earlier this month to restart some uranium reprocessing activities, the stage that precedes actual enrichment of uranium, after failing to make any progress after several rounds of talks with European negotiators.

    The European Union has warned that it could take Iran to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions if it resumes uranium reprocessing. Enriched uranium is useful in the generation of electricity, which is permitted under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, but it also can be turned into nuclear weapons.

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