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Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 September, 2003, 13:52 GMT 14:52 UK
Iran debates nuclear co-operation

By Jim Muir
BBC Tehran correspondent

The debate continues in Iran over how to react to last week's resolution from the International Atomic Energy Agency giving Tehran until the end of October to demonstrate that it is not pursuing nuclear weapons.

The biggest reformist party has come out in favour of signing an additional protocol which would allow the IAEA to make intrusive, unannounced inspections, and it is highly critical of the way Iran's foreign policies are being run.

Mohamed ElBaradei
IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei wants urgent co-operation
The IAEA's resolution is still the subject of heated debate here, and Iran's final position on whether to comply with the deadline, has yet to emerge.

Almost across the board, the resolution itself has been seen as an affront to Iran's national dignity.

But how to proceed, is the question, and that's where heated differences are emerging.

Splits

Many right-wing figures and bodies are urging the government to pull out of the non-proliferation treaty altogether.

They include one of the few organised right-wing groupings, the Mottalefeh or Islamic Coalition.

But the biggest of the reformist factions, which dominate the current parliament, has come out with a strong statement saying Iran should sign up to the additional protocol that would allow the IAEA to conduct tough, snap inspections.

Find out more about key nuclear sites in Iran

The Islamic Participation Front said accepting the protocol would not be against Iran's national interests, and would be a step towards building confidence internationally.

It was fiercely critical of the way the country's foreign policy machine operates.

Iran had been plunged into crisis because its official policies of detente were being undermined by practical interference from what the statement called "some institutions" which had taken on foreign policy decision-making, and were responsible for its deficiencies.

"Practical opposition to this [detente] policy by some institutions, on the one hand, and the slow, opaque and ambiguous process of decision making on the foreign policy front, on the other, have led to opportunities being missed and the country being plunged into its present predicament," the statement said.

"This is a product of mismanagement, which in turn stems from restricting the decision-making authority to certain closed circles," it added.

This, it said, said, was in clear violation of the constitution, which gave those foreign policy powers to the elected parliament and government.

"We consider the only way out of the present predicament is to change the faulty process of decision-making and to return things to a legal and transparent course," the statement said.

This was thinly-veiled criticism of the Supreme Leader's office, which has the last say in all important policy matters but is not open to scrutiny.

Reformists' concerns

The Mosharekat statement added that pressures from outside, and worse, were only to be expected when the people were marginalised, and there was a rift between the nation and its rulers.

This is a product of mismanagement, which in turn stems from restricting the decision-making authority to certain closed circles
Islamic Participation Front
This clearly reflected the concern of the reformists, who were voted in with huge popular support, but have been prevented by an entrenched right-wing minority from enacting change, that they'll be wiped out in next February's general elections.

President Mohammad Khatami himself, the main reformist symbol, has said that free elections and a big turnout were the only way to resist foreign pressures.

At city council elections last February, the turnout in Tehran was a mere 12%, and reformists who swept the board four years ago were replaced by conservatives.

Reformists fear this mass disillusion with the reform process will be replicated in the general elections unless there's a dramatic improvement in their fortunes - and there is no sign of that at present.


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