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Iran could build a bomb ‘anytime’ but won’t, Zarif reportedly says

After briefing by foreign minister, Iranian legislators back new deal, hail ‘major gains,’ dismiss concessions as ‘unimportant’

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Lausanne, Switzerland, on April 2, 2015. (AFP/Fabrice Coffrini)
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Lausanne, Switzerland, on April 2, 2015. (AFP/Fabrice Coffrini)

Iranian lawmakers voiced their approval for the April 2 framework nuclear agreement with world powers in a closed-door parliamentary session Tuesday in Tehran, with one MP calling any concessions made by Iran to world powers “unimportant.”

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and Iranian atomic bureau officials briefed the plenum on the deal’s outline, and the moves the Islamic Republic will agree to adopt in exchange for easing economic sanctions.

During the meeting, Zarif told lawmakers that Iran is capable of producing an atomic bomb at any given moment, but will refrain from doing so due to religious Islamic injunctions against such a move, Israel Radio reported.

“We achieved major gains in the talks and made unimportant concessions,” Nozar Shafiei, a parliament member, told the Iranian Republic News Agency Tuesday.

Zarif returned to Tehran following a week of intensive, high-stakes talks in Lausanne, Switzerland, with the six world powers — known as the P5+1 — to formulate an outline for a nuclear accord.

Upon his return, he vowed to publish the minutes of the framework deal in order to counter “American lies” — referencing comments made in recent days by US officials indicating that sanctions on Iran may not be lifted in one fell swoop.

“The Islamic Republic has found it expedient to suspend enrichment activities to some extent and it should not be considered a step backward,” Shafiei said.

“The world agreed that Iran is entitled to nuclear technology as it had to accept Iran as a nuclear power,” he added.

A general view of Iran's parliament in Tehran, Aug. 28, 2013 (photo credit: AP/Ebrahim Noroozi)
A general view of Iran’s parliament in Tehran, Aug. 28, 2013 (photo credit: AP/Ebrahim Noroozi)

Other MKs noted they were “satisfied” with the accord, and planned to lobby for further concessions ahead of a June 30 final agreement, to allow Tehran to retain much of its nuclear infrastructure and know-how.

“All together, the MPs voiced satisfaction in Zarif’s explanations,” Behrouz Ne’mati, a presiding board member, told the Fars News Agency.

“The legislature was convinced by Zarif’s remarks because all Islamic Republic bodies and officials want the nuclear achievements of the country, including Arak Heavy Water Reactor to be protected,” he said, adding that “the legislature wants the final deal to include objective guarantees for the one-stage removal of the sanctions by the West.”

But Iran’s official news agency said that about 200 hard-liners staged a rally that coincided with the closed session of parliament, to protest against the deal, for placing on limits on Tehran’s nuclear program.

The gathering took place in front of the parliament in the Iranian capital without prior permission from authorities.

Even though Iranian hard-liners have denounced the agreement as a disaster for Iran, it has been overwhelmingly backed by Iran’s establishment, including President Hassan Rouhani and the head of the powerful Revolutionary Guard Corps.

President Barack Obama acknowledged on Tuesday that the emerging agreement in its current form will enable to Tehran to develop a nuclear weapon in “zero” breakout time, within 13 years — down from two months, according to recent US intelligence assessments.

“What is a more relevant fear would be that in Year 13, 14, 15, they have advanced centrifuges that enrich uranium fairly rapidly, and at that point, the breakout times would have shrunk almost down to zero,” Obama said.

The deal is to curb Iran’s bomb-capable technology while giving Tehran quick access to bank accounts, oil markets and financial assets blocked by international sanctions.

AP contributed to this report

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