Mon, Nov 01, 2004 - Page 6 News List

Iranian government okays uranium enrichment plan


Iran's parliament approved the outline of a bill yesterday that requires the government to resume uranium enrichment -- an issue of national pride that provides a rare point of agreement between conservatives and reformers in Iranian politics.

Shouts of "Death to America!" rang out from lawmakers in the conservative-dominated parliament after the unanimous vote.

Washington has been Iran's prime adversary in its quest to become a nuclear nation, which Tehran maintains is for purely peaceful nuclear energy purposes. The US, which has secured some support from European nations, accuses Iran of trying to build nuclear weapons.

Lawmakers stood up to show their "yes" vote for the bill, details of which would be discussed at a later date.

"The unanimous and resolute vote of the lawmakers ... is the voice of the Iranian parliament and nation," parliament speaker Gholam Ali Haddad Adel said, drawing the anti-American shouts.

Immediately after the draft legislation was approved in an open session of parliament, Haddad Adel called the vote a message to Iranians and the world.

"The message of the absolute vote for the Iranian nation is that the parliament supports national interests," he said.

"And the message for the outside world is that the parliament won't give in to coercion," he added amid shouts of "Allahu akbar!" or God is great.

Iran repeatedly has rejected a long-term suspension of all uranium enrichment-related activities being sought by the international community. Iranian nuclear negotiators have been meeting with officials from Britain, France and Germany, but a second round of talks ended last week without agreement.

At the talks in Vienna, Austria, the three key European powers had offered Iran a trade deal and peaceful nuclear technology -- including a light-water research reactor -- in return for assurances that the country will stop uranium enrichment indefinitely.

Uranium enriched to a low level can be used to produce nuclear fuel, and enriched further can be used to make atomic weapons.

Washington has called for the UN Security Council to study Iran's situation for possible economic sanctions if Tehran doesn't give up all uranium enrichment activities before a Nov. 25 meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

A date for discussing details of the legislation was not set.

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