(photo credit: AP [file])
The Iranian Parliament approved a bill on Sunday that requires the government to block intrusive inspections of Iran's facilities if the UN nuclear agency refers the Iranian program to the UN Security Council.
Of 197 lawmakers present, 183 voted in favor of the bill. The session was broadcast live on state-run radio, four days in advance of an International Atomic Energy Agency board meeting to consider referring Teheran the council for possible sanctions.
When the bill becomes law, as is expected, it will strengthen the government's hand in resisting international pressure to abandon uranium enrichment, a process that can be used to produce fuel for nuclear reactors or an atomic bomb.
The United States charges that Iran is trying to build a nuclear weapon. Iran says its program is for generating electricity.
The bill will go to the Guardian Council, a hard-line constitutional watchdog, for ratification. The council was widely expected to approve the measure.
"If Iran's nuclear file is referred or reported to the UN Security Council, the government will be required to cancel all voluntary measures it has taken and implement all scientific, research and executive programs to enable the rights of the nation under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty," lawmaker Kazem Jalali quoted the bill as saying.
Canceling voluntary measures means Iran will stop allowing intrusive inspections of its nuclear facilities by the International Atomic Energy Agency and would resume uranium enrichment.
Iran resumed uranium reprocessing activities at its Isfahan Uranium Conversion Facility in August, a step before enrichment, but had said it preferred a negotiated solution to begin uranium enrichment.
Under the additional protocol to the treaty, Iran has been allowing IAEA inspectors to carry out short-notice inspections of its nuclear facilities. Iran has signed the protocol but never ratified it.
The 35-member IAEA board of governors meets on Thursday, and in a preparatory report, the UN agency found that Iran received the detailed designs from the network run by Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of Pakistan's nuclear program.
His network supplied Libya with information for its now-dismantled nuclear weapons program that included an engineer's drawing of an atomic bomb.
The document given to Iran in 1987 showed how to cast "enriched, natural and depleted uranium metal into hemispherical forms," said the confidential IAEA report.
But Iran on Sunday sought to blunt potential international action over its contentious nuclear program, labeling as baseless the report that it had received blueprints for building the core of an atomic weapon.
"This is just a media speculation," said Hamid Reza Asefi, Iranian foreign ministry spokesman. "It is baseless."
The US and Europeans want Iran to permanently halt uranium enrichment, a technology that gives Iran the capacity to produce materials for a nuclear bomb if it decides to.
Iran says the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty allows it to pursue a nuclear program for peaceful purposes, and that it will never give up the right to enrich uranium to produce nuclear fuel.