Iranian lawmakers raised the stakes in the country’s nuclear tussle with the US ahead of Tuesday’s election.
Parliament voted to urgently consider legislation that would end wide-ranging inspections by international atomic monitors if US oil and banking sanctions aren’t lifted within three months of the bill’s approval.
The proposals would also revive the core of the reactor at the Arak plant mothballed under the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, and increase Iran’s stockpile of uranium enriched to 20 per cent, which could then be purified to weapons-grade material at short notice.
The move on the eve of voting in the US suggests Iran will attempt to force the pace of negotiations if Democrat challenger Joe Biden, who’s ahead in the polls, wins the White House. President Donald Trump pulled out of the 2015 accord two years ago and has since imposed sweeping sanctions on Iran’s economy to try to force it to accept a tougher deal that also limits Tehran’s missile program and ambitions in the Middle East.
The legislation aims to “reverse the pressure of sanctions on Iran and use the capacities of the nuclear industry as leverage against Western countries to live up to their commitments under the nuclear deal,” said Abolfazl Amouei, spokesman for parliament’s national security commission, according to the legislature’s news service, ICANA.
Under the multiparty pact struck five years ago, Iran signed up to the Additional Protocol, which allows United Nations inspectors more intrusive access to nuclear sites.
Iran stopped abiding by some of the nuclear deal’s enrichment constraints in response to the US sanctions.
In September, the UN’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, said Iran’s stockpile of uranium enriched to 4.5 per cent had tripled to 2,105.4 kilograms, in breach of the deal and enough to create three bombs if Iran chose to purify the material to weapons-grade.
Yet other accord signatories — three European powers, Russia and China — urged it to continue allowing access for monitors as they sought ways to salvage the landmark deal and enable some trade with Tehran.
If it passes into law, the bill would require the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran to increase its stockpile of uranium enriched to 20 per cent by 120 kilograms each year, shortening the time it would need to produce weapons.
Iran, which denies it ever pursued nuclear weapons research, has repeatedly said that it would immediately return to full compliance with the nuclear deal if the US first agrees to lift its sanctions and also returns to the original terms of the accord.