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Iran assembly could advise quitting NPT if talks fail

TEHRAN (Reuters) - A hardline Iranian MP said on Tuesday that parliament may advocate Iran’s withdrawal from the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty if talks with big powers fail and the United States keeps pressure on Tehran.

Iran will meet six big powers on Thursday in Geneva over their long-running nuclear dispute, but Tehran has already ruled out negotiating limits on its uranium enrichment program. Western powers say such defiance could bring harsher sanctions.

“If the Zionists and America continue their pressure on Iran and if the talks with (six powers) do not reach a conclusion, then parliament will take a clear and transparent position, such as Iran’s withdrawal from the NPT,” IRNA news agency quoted parliamentarian Mohammad Karamirad as saying.

Parliament can formally oblige the government to take such a step, as happened when Iran stopped permitting wide-ranging snap U.N. nuclear inspections in 2006, but Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has final say on matters of state.

Top Iranian officials have repeatedly said Tehran has no intention to leave the NPT, under which its nuclear facilities are subject to regular U.N. nuclear watchdog inspections, or seek nuclear weapons it says violate the tenets of Islam.

Iranian atomic energy organization chief Ali Akbar Salehi told reporters on Tuesday: “We are acting in the framework of the NPT. We are committed to our commitments.”

Karamirad, a conservative hard-liner, is a member of parliament’s Foreign Affairs and National Security commission.

Strategic analysts believe Iran would think twice before quitting the NPT since such a move would betray nuclear weapons ambitions and could provoke a pre-emptive attack by Israel and possibly the United States.

Iran champions NPT principles at international conferences, despite Western suspicions that it seeks nuclear arms capability behind its declared civilian atomic energy program.

Tehran often criticizes Israel for shunning the NPT and maintaining a presumed nuclear arsenal which Tehran and Arab states say destabilizes the Middle East.

Reporting by Reza Derakhshi; writing by Fredrik Dahl and Mark Heinrich