Iranians draft bill to up enrichment to 60 percent

Proposed law to come into effect if new sanctions introduced, countering recent Senate bid to increase pressure on Tehran

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)

Iranian parliamentarians have proposed a bill to increase uranium enrichment to 60 percent in the event of new Western sanctions, the Iranian Press TV reported Wednesday. In addition to raising the enrichment level significantly, the draft, signed by 100 legislators, would resume activity at the Arak heavy water reactor.

“If the bill is approved, the government will be obliged to complete nuclear infrastructure at the Fordo and Natanz [enrichment facilities] if sanctions [against Iran] are ratcheted up, new sanctions are imposed, the country’s nuclear rights are violated and the Islamic Republic of Iran’s peaceful nuclear rights are ignored by members of the P5+1,” Seyyed Mehdi Mousavinejad, an Iranian lawmaker, said on Wednesday, according to Press TV.

The new bill would be in direct violation of the November 24 interim agreement forged between Iran and six world powers, under which Tehran agreed to halt work at Arak, cap its enrichment at five percent, and neutralize its stockpile of 20% enriched uranium. That agreement has not yet been implemented, because the sides still have to resolve “technical details.”

The proposal also serves as a message to world powers about the Iranian commitment to advancing the nuclear program, lawmakers said.

“The bill is aimed at giving an upper hand to our government and the negotiating team… It will allow the government to continue our nuclear program if the Geneva deal fails,” Hossein Taghavi Hosseini, spokesman for parliament’s National Security and Foreign Affairs committee, said, according to IRNA.

The bill was presented to the parliament’s presiding board and will be voted on at a later date, Iranian media reported.

The drafting of the bill came days after a group of US senators proposed The Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act, which would ramp up sanctions against Iran in the event that the Islamic Republic violates the interim deal, or should later nuclear talks fail to produce a long-term agreement.

Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz on Wednesday said that were the sanctions against Iran to continue for another year or two, “it would have brought about the collapse of the Iranian economy.”

Speaking at a conference at Ariel University, Steinitz said that the international sanctions regime against the Islamic Republic were “the greatest political success of the State of Israel” thanks to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s efforts, according to Maariv. As of a few months ago, he said, the sanctions had cost Iran an estimated $100 billion, which he said was “a huge sum compared to the GDP of Iran, which stands at $450 billion per annum.”

The latest P5+1 nuclear talks with Iran, which have been focusing on the details of the interim deal, were postponed for a break over Christmas and are expected to resume before the new year. Iranian negotiators met with representatives from the United States, China, Britain, France, Russia and Germany, from Thursday last week through Sunday in Geneva to discuss the implementation of the guidelines established in the November 24 interim agreement, which has yet to go into effect.

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi told state television from Geneva on Sunday that the talks have been facing trouble. He said there were “incorrect interpretations” in setting a protocol to implement the deal.

“Priorities should be decided to make it clear what actions should be first and what should be done later,” Araqchi said. “But the principle of simultaneous actions by both sides is a main dominant standard in the talks.”

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif expressed hope that the talks would conclude “sooner or later,” in a joint Tehran press conference with visiting Italian Foreign Minister Emma Bonino. He said the expert-level talks in Geneva were “slowly” moving forward.

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