October 11, 2015 / 1:20 PM / in 2 years

Iran's parliament gives initial nod to nuclear deal with powers

DUBAI (Reuters) - The Iranian parliament gave preliminary backing on Sunday to a bill approving Tehran’s nuclear agreement with world powers, with supportive voices overcoming determined opposition from conservative lawmakers.

Iranians hold pictures of Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif as they celebrate in the street following a nuclear deal with major powers, in Tehran July 14, 2015. REUTERS/TIMA

By a vote of 139 to 100, parliament approved the first reading of a bill calling on the Tehran government to continue developing the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program in line with the July 14 deal, the state news agency IRNA reported.

The bill, proposed by parliament’s national security committee, must now pass a second vote on Tuesday before being submitted to a clerical body for final approval and passage into law.

It insists that international inspections of military sites under the nuclear deal should be approved by a top Iranian security body, leaving the possibility that disagreements could still arise during the implementation phase.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who led Iranian negotiators in the marathon talks with six world powers, delivered a vigorous defense of the deal in parliament, saying Iran had achieved its objectives.

“They (world powers) didn’t want us to be in the nuclear club, but we are in it, thanks to God,” Zarif said in the session, carried live by state media. “History will show that we dominated the negotiations.”

Some members of parliament were not convinced. “This team failed to get the rights of the Iranian people from the American wolves,” conservative lawmaker Alireza Zakani said in a heated debate preceding the vote.

The government of President Hassan Rouhani had wanted to bypass parliament entirely but Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said he wanted the legislature to review the deal, under which Iran will curb disputed aspects of its nuclear program in exchange for a lifting of international sanctions.

As the country’s highest authority, Khamenei has the final say on the agreement. He has not yet uttered a strong opinion on the agreement, waiting for other factions to reveal their positions.

Most observers say Tehran will ratify the deal, since it needs the removal of sanctions to revive its economy. But there is a risk it could fall apart in the coming months or years if either side believes the terms have been breached.

The July 14 deal opened the door to easing decades of mounting hostility between Iran and the West. Western powers suspect the program was aimed at developing the means to build an atom bomb. Tehran says it seeks only peaceful atomic energy.

One area of disagreement cropping up since the deal concerns inspections of Iranian military sites by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations nuclear watchdog.

The parliamentary bill says the IAEA “will not be given access to inspect military installations or interview individuals (nuclear scientists) unless approved on a case by case basis by the National Security Council”.

Western diplomats said last month that IAEA inspectors, tasked with verifying member states are not developing nuclear energy for weapons purposes, will have access to military sites where Iranian technicians are taking swipe samples.

The bill also requires the government to suspend its measures limiting Iran’s nuclear program under the agreement if any sanctions are re-imposed on the Islamic Republic.

The Islamic Republic is required to give the IAEA enough information about its past nuclear activity to allow the Vienna-based watchdog to write a report on the issue by year-end, a step that is a precondition for significant sanctions relief.

Reporting by Dubai newsroom; Editing by Sam Wilkin and Mark Heinrich

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