The United States warned Iran on Wednesday against heading into a "downward spiral" of non-cooperation with the UN nuclear watchdog after Teheran's parliament authorized the government to limit the agency's access to its atomic sites.
A White House spokesman, Scott Stanzel, urged the Islamic Republic to "immediately" conform to the demands of the UN Security Council to suspend its enrichment of uranium, a practice the US fears is a cover for developing nuclear weapons.
Further non-compliance by Iran "will worsen its situation in the eyes of the world" and generate further reports of non-compliance from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Stanzel said in Crawford, Texas, where US President George W. Bush was spending the end of the year.
"We hope, therefore, that the Iranian regime will set aside threats and confrontation and will begin immediately to co-operate with all the requirements of the Security Council," the spokesman said.
Earlier on Wednesday, Iran's parliament approved a bill obliging the government to "revise its co-operation" with the UN nuclear watchdog in retaliation for Security Council sanctions imposed on Teheran.
The text of the bill, which also tells the government to "accelerate" Iran's controversial nuclear programme, was approved by an overwhelming majority in the conservative-controlled parliament, with 161 in favour and 15 against.
Iran has refused to heed the council's demand to suspend uranium enrichment. Iran insists its atomic drive is entirely peaceful.
The formulation of the bill gives the government a free hand to limit co-operation with the Vienna-based IAEA. This could involve limiting UN inspections of its atomic sites, a move urged by several lawmakers.
Voice against nuclear policy
Former Iranian officials spoke out against Ahmadinejad's hardline nuclear policies and urged a return to transparency and moderation, in interviews published yesterday.
"A new government has been at work for one year and sanctions and (UN) resolutions have been adopted against Iran," said Mohammad Hashemi, the brother of ex-president Akhbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, according to the moderate daily Kargozaran.
"For one year, leaders have been convinced that the United States could not send the nuclear matter to the UN Security Council and that there would not be a Security Council resolution (against Iran).
"But unfortunately, we have seen that the United States has attained all its objectives," he said, suggesting that "as a result, in order to save the country from crisis" it was necessary to "resort to competent and moderate people."
Hossein Moussavian, a former member of Iran's nuclear negotiating team led by the moderate Hassan Rohani, predicted that "the next step will be the adoption of business and economic sanctions."
He advocated a policy of "flexibility, caution and patience" in order to "create trust, remove ambiguities, respond to questions from the IAEA and negotiate." Similarly, Ali Khoram, a former high-ranking diplomat, said the situation had become dangerous because the UN Security Council resolution had placed Iran "on the same level as North Korea, which possesses nuclear weapons."
He said that "Security Council members do not need a new resolution to increase pressure on Iran, and can reach their aim with this very resolution."
Source: China Daily