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Middle East

Iran MPs urge government to reduce IAEA cooperation

Lawmakers urged Iran's government today to submit a plan on reducing cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), after the UN body rebuked Tehran for building a uranium enrichment plant in secret.

The move highlighted growing tension between the Islamic Republic and major powers seeking a diplomatic solution to a long-running dispute over Iranian nuclear work the West suspects is aimed at making bombs.

It may also cast further doubt on the prospect of Iran accepting a UN-drafted nuclear fuel deal meant to allay international concern about its nuclear work, which Tehran says is aimed at generating electricity.

"Because of world powers' hasty behaviour, the government should submit its plan over reducing Iran's cooperation level with the agency," MPs said in a statement read out in parliament, state radio reported.

Parliament can oblige the government to change the level of its cooperation with the IAEA, as it did in 2006 after the Vienna-based agency voted to report Iran to the UN Security Council.

Friday's resolution - which won rare backing from China and Russia - by the 35-nation IAEA board was a sign of spreading alarm over Tehran's failure to dispel fears it has clandestine plans to build nuclear bombs, a charge Iran denies.

It urged Iran to clarify the original purpose of the recently disclosed Fordow enrichment site, hidden inside a mountain bunker, stop construction and confirm there are no more hidden sites.

The vote reflected exasperation with Iran's retreat from an IAEA-brokered draft deal to provide it with fuel for a medical nuclear reactor if it agreed to part with its enriched uranium, which could be turned into bomb material if further refined.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said major powers would pursue harsher sanctions against Iran if it ignored the vote.

But it was far from clear whether the West could now coax Moscow and Beijing to join in tough sanctions against Iran, something they have long prevented at the UN Security Council.

Iran has already denounced the IAEA resolution as "intimidation" which would poison its talks with world powers.

"If the West continues to pressure us, then parliament can review Iran's cooperation level with the IAEA," parliament speaker Ali Larijani, an influential conservative, told the assembly earlier on Sunday.

Iranian Ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh on Friday called the resolution a "hasty" step devoid of legal basis, saying Iran would not halt its sensitive nuclear work.

He said Iran would continue to allow basic inspections at its nuclear sites but could stop making "voluntary gestures" of extra cooperation such as when it allowed widened surveillance at its rapidly expanding main enrichment complex at Natanz.

Iran says its atomic energy programme is purely for peaceful purposes, aimed at generating electricity.