Middle East/North Africa

Iran set to increase uranium enrichment, bar UN inspectors after scientist’s killing

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Iran’s Guardian Council on Wednesday passed into law measures to end United Nations inspections and begin enriching uranium beyond the limit imposed by the 2015 nuclear deal if sanctions on Tehran are not eased within two months. 

Iran’s 12-member governing council approved the law a day after its Parliament voted in favor of the legislation, with state TV quoting Parliament Speaker Mohammad Baqer Ghalibaf as saying on Tuesday that lawmakers are “hopeful to remove sanctions through this stern decision.”

The U.S. has imposed a series of sanctions on Iran after the Trump administration in 2018 withdrew from the Obama-era nuclear agreement. 

The Guardian Council is responsible for ensuring bills do not come into conflict with Shi’ite Islamic laws or Iran’s constitution. 

Reuters reported, however, that the position of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say on all state matters, is not currently known.

“Today in a letter, the parliament speaker officially asked the president to implement the new law,” Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency reported, according to Reuters.

However, Iran President Hassan Rouhani said ahead of the Council’s vote Wednesday that he believes the law is counterproductive. 

“The government does not agree with this legislation and considers it damaging for diplomacy,” he said, according to The New York Times

Under the 2015 nuclear accord, Iran had agreed to limit its uranium enrichment to under 4 percent. In Wednesday’s law, Iran committed to raising this level unless European countries that still belong to the agreement provide relief from the U.S. sanctions. 

While the bill was initially tabled in August, support has grown since news broke last week of the killing of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a nuclear scientist who Israel and western nations have claimed was heading a program looking at the possibility of building a nuclear weapon. 

According to state media, Fakhrizadeh was shot and killed by “armed terrorist elements” while in a vehicle in the town of Absard and died in the hospital. 

Several Iranian officials have blamed Israel for the killing, although Israeli Cabinet minister Tzachi Hanegbi said Saturday in an interview on N12’s “Meet the Press” that he has “no clue who did it.” 

The law is likely to place challenges on President-elect Joe Biden’s administration as he enters the White House in January. Biden has indicated that he wants the U.S. to rejoin the Iran nuclear deal.

Tags 2015 Iran Nuclear Deal Ayatollah Ali Khamenei Donald Trump Hassan Rouhani Iran Iran nuclear weapons Israel Joe Biden Reuters The New York Times U.S. sanctions against Iran United Nations United States

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