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. Iranian hardliners rail against nuclear accord with Europeans
TEHRAN (AFP) Nov 16, 2004
Pragmatists in Iran's clerical regime were under pressure from hardliners on Tuesday who lined up to condemn an agreement to suspend sensitive nuclear activities in line with international demands.

At a noisy session in the hardline-controlled parliament, one deputy likened Iran's deal with Britain, France and Germany to the 1993 Oslo autonomy accords between Israel and the Palestinians, considered by the Islamic republic as an act of "treason".

"We agreed to make 13 precise commitments while the Europeans only made four vague ones," seethed conservative MP Ahmad Tavakoli, referring to the text of a accord agreed upon late Sunday between Iranian and European diplomats.

The UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), confirmed Monday that Iran has pledged to suspend all uranium enrichment-related activities as of November 22.

The suspension came ahead of an IAEA meeting in Vienna on November 25 that will decide whether to take Iran to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions. By agreeing to a suspension, Iran is likely to escape such a fate.

The deal brokered by the so-called EU-3 offered Iran trade, security and technological incentives in return for the "confidence-building measures" aimed at easing widespread fears the regime is seeking nuclear weapons.

"The Europeans said they would help us join the WTO, but it is the Americans who oppose our joining and them who decide," Tavakoli said, adding that joining the World Trade Organisation would in any case only bring "misery and poverty" to Iran.

"The concessions that we accepted compared to the commitments the Europeans made is like us offering a rare pearl in return for a lollipop," complained Ali Larijani, another top official who represents supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei at the Supreme National Security Council.

"This accord goes against our national interests," added Rafaat Bayat, another hardline deputy.

"I say to the United States and the Europeans, and in particular France who insists a lot on the suspension of enrichment, that our parliament will not accept anything that goes against our national interests," she said.

MP Ghodratollah Alikhani even went as far as to compare Sunday's meeting between top nuclear negotiator Hassan Rowhani and the three European ambassadors to scenes of the ousted Shah of Iran cosying up to foreigners.

Majlis speaker Gholam-Ali Hadad Adel attempted to calm the assembly pointing out that Iran's agreement was only for a suspension and not a definitive halt, and Rowhani went to parliament to try and convince angry deputies that the accord was not a humiliation.

"The suspension of enrichment will continue while the negotiations are moving in a positive direction, but if they hit a dead end we will be under no obligation and the suspension will end," he was quoted by the state news agency IRNA as telling MPs in a closed door meeting.

"Our principles have been respected," insisted Rowhani, seen as a pragmatic conservative within the regime.

He also asserted the deal was merely a preliminary understanding pending the negotiation of a longer term solution to the nuclear stand-off.

But hardline newspapers also opened fire, with Jomhuri Islami saying the suspension -- voluntary or otherwise -- was a climbdown and continued IAEA inspections only provided an opportunity for the US and Europeans to spy on Iran.

The United States claims Tehran is secretly developing nuclear weapons and wants the matter brought before the Security Council, which could impose punishing sanctions.

Iran has been cooperating, although somewhat reluctantly, with the IAEA since October 2003 and the agency had demanded in September that Iran suspend all activities concerning uranium enrichment.

The enrichment process makes fuel for nuclear reactors but also what can be the explosive core of atomic bombs.

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