Iran's Khamenei backs parliamentary vote on nuclear pact

ANKARA • Iran's Supreme Leader said yesterday he favoured a parliamentary vote on its nuclear deal reached with world powers and called for sanctions against Teheran to be lifted completely rather than merely suspended, state television reported.

President Hassan Rouhani, a pragmatist whose 2013 election paved the way to a diplomatic thaw with the West, and his allies have opposed such a parliamentary vote, arguing this would create legal obligations complicating the deal's implementation.

"Parliament should not be sidelined on the nuclear deal issue... I am not saying lawmakers should ratify or reject the deal. It is up to them to decide," said Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say on all state policy in Iran. "I have told the President that it is not in our interest to not let our lawmakers review the deal," the nation's top Shi'ite Muslim cleric said in remarks broadcast live on state TV.

Ayatollah Khamenei himself has not publicly endorsed or voiced opposition to the Vienna accord, having only praised the work of the Islamic Republic's negotiating team.

A special committee of Parliament, where conservative hardliners close to Ayatollah Khamenei are predominant, has begun reviewing the deal before putting it to a vote.

But Mr Rouhani's government has not prepared a Bill for Parliament to vote on.

The landmark deal, clinched on July 14 between Iran and the United States, Germany, France, Russia, China and Britain, is aimed at curbing Iran's nuclear activities to help ensure they remain peaceful in exchange for a removal of economic sanctions.

US President Barack Obama appeared to secure enough Senate votes on Wednesday to see the nuclear deal through Congress - a vote must be taken by Sept 19 - but hardline Republicans vowed to pursue their fight to scuttle it by passing new sanctions.

Ayatollah Khamenei said that without a cancellation of sanctions that have hobbled Iran's economy, the deal would be jeopardised.

"Should the sanctions be suspended, then there would be no deal either. So this issue must be resolved. If they only suspend the sanctions, then we will only suspend our nuclear activities," he said.

Iran has said it wants only peaceful nuclear energy.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 04, 2015, with the headline 'Iran's Khamenei backs parliamentary vote on nuclear pact'. Print Edition | Subscribe