0309 GMT January 17, 2021
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said on Wednesday his cabinet is opposed to a parliamentary bill which requires the government to suspend more nuclear commitments under the 2015 multilateral deal unless sanctions are lifted.
Rouhani said during a cabinet meeting in Tehran the government considers the motion “harmful to the trend of diplomatic activities” aimed at keeping the 2015 nuclear deal alive, over two years after the US abandoned the UN-endorsed agreement, Press TV reported.
The president made the remarks as his government submitted the annual budget bill to Parliament for approval.
Rouhani rejected media speculation that linked his absence from Parliament’s budget-related session on Wednesday to the legislature’s vote on the bill a day earlier, which seeks to speed up Iran's nuclear activities.
“My absence in Parliament was only because of health protocols [against the coronavirus spread] and there is no other reason,” the president said.
On Tuesday, 251 out of 260 voted ‘yes’ to the outlines of the draft bill, dubbed the Strategic Action Plan to Counter Sanctions.
The lawmakers are still hammering out the details of the proposed bill, which was presented following the Friday assassination of Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh by terrorists with suspected links to Israel.
The motion will eventually need the approval of the Guardian Council — a 12-member supervisory body that reviews all legislation adopted by Parliament.
Abbas-Ali Kadkhodaei, the spokesman for the top body, said the Guardian Council studied the bill on Wednesday and returned it to Parliament after finding an “ambiguity” that needed to be clarified, according IRNA.
‘Interference’ in executive affairs
First Vice President Es’haq Jahangiri came out against Parliament’s move, saying the nuclear issue cannot be dealt with “emotionally”.
Jahangiri said the Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei has granted the authority of “managing” the nuclear issue to the Supreme National Security Council which is one of “the main issues of national security of the country.”
He said “it is not in the interest” of the country that Parliament deal with the nuclear issue.
“Parliament should not interfere in executive affairs and this is not right,” Jahangiri said.
He noted that lawmakers cannot tell the foreign minister to act as they want because he has powers. “This is certainly interference in executive affairs.”
The plan, among other things, requires the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) to produce at least 120 kilograms of 20%-enriched uranium annually and store it inside the country within two months after the adoption of the motion.
It also requires the government to suspend the implementation of the Additional Protocol, which allows nuclear inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency, one month after the adoption in case the remaining parties to the deal – France, Germany, Britain, China and Russia – fail to fully live up to their commitments.
Lawmakers say sanctions on Iran’s banking system and oil exports among other things must be lifted during a 30-day period.
Sanctions could become ‘permanent’
But government spokesman Ali Rabiei said Tuesday that enriching uranium to 20% purity and abandoning the Additional Protocol will not help lift sanctions rather could make them “permanent”.
“Based on past experience, this bill… will not help lift sanctions,” Rabiei said.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh also said Parliament had not heeded the ministry's views in drafting the motion.
Khatibzadeh said at a press briefing that the bill is “neither necessary nor useful.”
“The government has explicitly stated that it opposes the bill,” he said, adding that it is not clear whether the rights of the Iranian people will be safeguarded with this motion.
AEOI spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi warned abandoning the Additional Protocol “would raise doubts and ambiguities” about Iran's nuclear program.
“The implementation of the Additional Protocol will not hinder the enrichment process, but non-implementation will raise doubts and ambiguity about Iran's nuclear program,” he said on Tuesday, according to ISNA.
US President Donald Trump unilaterally pulled Washington out of the 2015 nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), in May 2018, and unleashed the “toughest ever” sanctions against the Islamic Republic.
Iran remained fully compliant with the JCPOA for an entire year, waiting for the cosignatories to fulfill their end of the bargain by offsetting the impacts of American bans on the Iranian economy.
As those parties failed to do so, the Islamic Republic moved in May 2019 and began to roll back some of its JCPOA commitments under articles 26 and 36 of the deal that cover Tehran’s legal rights.