By Amir Paivar
The Iranian parliament, which is dominated by hardliners, passed a bill yesterday obliging the government to press ahead with efforts to develop a nuclear energy programme.
Amid cries of "Death to America" and "God is Greatest", parliament did not specifically order the government to resume uranium enrichment immediately or to end snap UN inspections of atomic facilities, as some lawmakers had demanded. But the outline bill, approved by all 247 deputies present in the 290-seat chamber, called on the authorities to continue work on the nuclear fuel cycle which includes enrichment - a rejection of the UN atomic watchdog's demand that Iran stop such activities. Uranium enrichment can be used to produce nuclear power and make atomic bombs.
"We will not give in to pressure," the parliamentiary speaker, Gholamali Haddadadel, said. "The Iranian nation is determined to use peaceful nuclear technology."
Iran denies US charges that it is secretly building nuclear weapons and, despite being a major oil producer, says it will press ahead with its nuclear programme to generate electricity from atomic reactors to meet booming demand.
The European Union has urged Iran to freeze uranium enrichment before the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) next meeting on 25 November. Failure to do so could mean Iran's case will be referred to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions.
Iran is already known to be building and assembling enrichment centrifuge parts.
EU negotiators will meet their Iranian counterparts in Paris on Friday for a third round of discussions on forging a truce over the nuclear issue. The EU is offering Tehran a supply of nuclear fuel, help with a light-water nuclear reactor and a resumption of trade talks. So far Iran has said it is entitled to produce nuclear fuel.
Political analysts believe the parliamentary debates on the nuclear programme aim to send a message to the world that hardliners in Iran could force the government to adopt a tougher line if too much diplomatic pressure is put on Tehran.