TEHRAN: Iran's parliament voted on Tuesday to support implementing the nuclear deal it struck with world powers, sending the measure to a council of senior clerics who will review the accord before its final approval.
The 12-member Guardian Council could send the bill, which allows Iran to back out of the nuclear pact if sanctions are imposed or not lifted, back to parliament to reconsider. Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has final say on key policies, has said it is up to the 290-seat parliament to approve or reject the deal.
In the session carried live by state radio, 161 lawmakers on hand voted for the nuclear deal, while 59 voted against it and 13 abstained. Another 17 did not vote at all, while 40 lawmakers did not attend the session. It was not immediately clear Tuesday when the Guardian Council would issue its own decision.
The bill gives the right of implementing the deal to Iran's Supreme National Security Council, the top security body of the country that President Hassan Rouhani heads. Khamenei himself has not publicly supported or disapproved of the deal, though he offered encouragement for the Islamic Republic's diplomats throughout the months of negotiations over it.
Discussion of the bill in the parliament had been unusually tense, with hard-liners repeatedly trying to prevent a vote on the deal. They hope to stall the deal in order to weaken Rouhani's moderate administration ahead of February's parliamentary elections.
During Tuesday's session, hard-liners claimed the bill had no support from Khamenei and tried to delay the vote by raising numerous proposals on its details. Iran's official IRNA news agency said Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif left the session after it got tense.
A preliminary parliamentary vote Sunday saw 139 lawmakers out of the 253 present supported the outline of the bill.
The deal calls for limiting Iran's nuclear program in exchange for lifting economic sanctions. The accord came after nearly two years of negotiations between Iran and world powers including the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany.
The West long has suspected Iran's nuclear program has a military dimension. Iran says its program is for peaceful purposes, like power generation and medical treatments.