Iran may pull out of nuclear treaty

Teheran threatens to disallow surprise inspections; US pushes for UN action.

ahmadinejad badass 298.8 (photo credit: Associated Press)
ahmadinejad badass 298.8
(photo credit: Associated Press)
Iran's hard-line parliament Sunday threatened to force the government to withdraw its agreement to allow unannounced inspections of its nuclear facilities under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. The move, which would also order a review of procedures to withdraw from the treaty altogether, came as Washington and its allies pressed for a UN Security Council vote to suspend Tehran's uranium enrichment program. Iran signed - but never ratified - the additional protocol to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and had allowed instrusive inspections by the UN nuclear watchdog until February after it was first referred to the Security Council. If Iran withdraws its signature, it would block the possibility of unannounced inspections, which the International Atomic Energy Agency has demanded to ensure that Iran's nuclear program aims to produce energy - not nuclear weapons. In a letter to United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan read on state-run radio, lawmakers said the dispute over Iran's nuclear program must be resolved "peacefully, (or) there will be no option for the parliament but to ask the government to withdraw its signature" from the additional protocol. While the Iranians used the word "peacefully," they were widely seen as referring to a diplomatic solution, short of a Security Council vote and possible sanctions. The United States is backing attempts by Britain and France to draw up a UN resolution that would declare Iran in violation of international law if it does not suspend uranium enrichment - a process that can produce fuel for nuclear reactors to generate electricity or, if sufficiently processed, the materials for atomic weapons. Iran's antagonists on the issue want to invoke Chapter 7 of the UN charter that would lead to economic sanctions or - perhaps - military action. Russia and China, the other two Security Council members - all of whom can veto any action by the organization as a whole - oppose such action. Iran already had stopped snap IAEA inspections, saying its 2003 agreement was being implemented voluntarily and had not been ratified by parliament and the Guardian Council, a powerful oversight body dominated by Islamic hard-liners. The protocol allows unfettered and unannounced IAEA inspections to ensure overall compliance with the treaty. Furthermore, the letter said, the lawmakers would order a "review (of) Article 10 of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty," the section of the agreement that outlines procedures for withdrawal. Article 10 allows signatories to pull out of the treaty if they decide that extraordinary events have jeopardized their own supreme interests. A nation wanting to withdraw must give fellow treaty signers and the U.N. three months notice and detail events leading up to the decision. North Korea withdrew from the treaty in 2003 on that basis. The US Ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, dismissed the Iranian parliament's threat and said it would not deter Western nations trying to push through a new UN resolution demanding Tehran stop uranium enrichment. "This is a typical Iranian threat. It shows they remain desperate to conceal that their nuclear program is in fact a weapons program," he said. "I'm confident that these statements from Iran will not deter the sponsors of the draft resolution from proceeding in the Security Council." Bolton said he believed the resolution would move to a vote next week - with or without support from Moscow and Beijing. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told the official Islamic Republic News Agency the US and its allies "don't give us anything and yet they want to impose sanctions on us." He called threats of sanctions "meaningless" and vowed to "smash their illegitimate resolutions against a wall." Ahmadinejad also said he would not hesitate to reconsider NPT membership. "If a signature on an international treaty causes the rights of a nation be violated, that nation will reconsider its decision and that treaty will be invalid," he told IRNA. Also Sunday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said again that there was nothing the international community could do to prompt Iran to suspend uranium enrichment, declaring that "intervention by the Security Council in this issue is completely illegal." Briefing reporters, Asefi also said Iran's opponents were driven by "political motivations." "Countries sponsoring the draft resolution (Britain, France and the United States) have political motivations," Asefi said. "It's clear that any action by the UN Security Council will leave a negative impact on our cooperation with the IAEA." "Intervention by the UN Security Council would change the path of cooperation to confrontation. We recommend they do not do this," he said. Iran insists the program is designed only to make fuel for reactors to generate electricity, and the IAEA says there is no evidence Iran has a nuclear weapons program. "The UN Security Council should not take any action that it cannot later undo. We won't give up our rights and the issue of suspension (of enrichment) is not on our agenda," Asefi said at his weekly briefing.