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. Iran takes first step to halt snap nuclear checks
TEHRAN (AFP) Sep 28, 2005
Iran's conservative-controlled parliament took a first step Wednesday towards halting snap international inspections of its atomic facilities as the country vowed to resist Western pressure over its nuclear activities.

MPs voted to give priority in parliament to a bill to halt inspections by the UN watchdog 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 aims to show Iran's determination after an IAEA resolution adopted on Saturday found Tehran in "non-compliance" with nuclear proliferation safeguards.

Such a finding is an automatic trigger for referral to the UN Security Council, although that 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 enrichment and to cease implementation of the additional protocol if the West does not modify the resolution.

The 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.

"To acquire nuclear technology, Iran has no choice but to resist the pressure of the major powers," chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani said Wednesday, the official IRNA news agency reported.

"We are members of the IAEA and we want to continue our enrichment activities within the framework of the agency," he said.

Larijani, appointed after new hardline President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad took office last month, said Iran rejected "the continued suspension (of sensitive nuclear fuel work) the ratification of the additional protocol and the suspension of activities at the Arak heavy-water plant".

"The hostility of the United States and the world pressure is not limited to the nuclear field. It is opposed to the Islamic regime and after the nuclear issue it will put pressure on over human rights, the Palestinian issue, etc."

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