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. Iran takes first step to halt snap nuclear inspections
TEHRAN (AFP) Sep 28, 2005
Iran's conservative-controlled parliament took a first step Wednesday toward halting snap inspections by the UN nuclear watchdog of its atomic facilities.

They voted to give priority in parliament to a bill to halt the inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) under an additional protocol to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

But the process can still take several weeks as the text must first go to a specialized commission before being examined by MPs.

The move by the MPs aims to show Iran's determination after an IAEA resolution passed on Saturday finding Tehran in "non-compliance" with nuclear proliferation safeguards.

A finding of non-compliance is an automatic trigger for referral to the United Nations Security Council. But referral would come only after a new report by IAEA chief Mohammed ElBaradei, probably in November.

Iran rejected as "illegal" and "unacceptable" the resolution which requires the immediate ratification of the additional protocol and total suspension of activities related to uranium enrichment.

On Tuesday, Iran threatened to resume uranium enrichment and to cease implementation of the additional protocol allowing for tightened inspections if the West does not modify the resolution passed by the IAEA.

The additional protocol -- signed but not ratified by Iran -- gives the IAEA more inspection powers and is central to efforts to clear up suspicions Tehran is seeking the nuclear bomb.

Iran froze its enrichment program two years ago as a "confidence-building measure". A resumption of the work and an end to close IAEA surveillance would be certain to result in a major escalation of tensions.

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