State news agency IRNA said the bill was was approved by the foreign affairs and national security committee. AFP
TEHRAN - A committee of Iran's hardline-dominated parliament gave preliminary approval to a bill that would force the reformist government to resume uranium enrichment in defiance of the UN nuclear watchdog.
State news agency IRNA said the bill was was approved by the foreign affairs and national security committee.
If eventually passed by a vote of the Majlis (parliament) and approved by legislative watchdogs, it would almost certainly prompt the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to refer Iran's case to the UN Security Council.
On Monday, committee chairman Allaeddin Borujerdi said 238 deputies out of a total 290 were backing the move to resume enrichment.
Many analysts have likened the parliament's move to posturing as a means of raising the stakes in the stand-off with the IAEA, and although the bill has been given preliminary approval, it was not prioritised for immediate debate in the assembly.
Under pressure from the IAEA, Tehran last year agreed to suspend uranium enrichment while inspectors probed allegations it had been seeking to acquire nuclear weapons.
Enriched uranium, depending on the level of purification, can be used as either as fuel for a civilian reactor or as the explosive core of a nuclear bomb.
The suspension was part of a October 2003 deal with the three main European powers -- Britain, France and Germany. But the accord has since come under pressure, with Iran pressing on with work on other parts of the fuel cycle.
Iran says it only wants to generate electricity. It emphasises that, if it is for peaceful purposes, enrichment is permitted under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which is overseen by the IAEA.
But the IAEA board on September 18 passed another resolution calling on Iran to widen the suspension to include all uranium enrichment-related activities -- such as making centrifuges, converting yellowcake into UF6 feed gas and constructing a heavy water reactor.
Iran, facing a November 25 deadline, has so far rejected the demands but has urged more negotiations. Top officials have also warned that if referred to the UN Security Council, Iran would halt its cooperation with inspectors.