In final step, top Iranian council approves nuclear deal

Tehran: A senior council of Iranian clerics and lawyers today approved implementing the landmark nuclear deal with world powers, sealing the final required step in the process despite hard-liners’ efforts to derail it.

The Guardian Council’s vote, while apparently not unanimous, marks a major victory for the administration of moderate President Hassan Rouhani, which has campaigned on easing tensions with the West.

But it comes as Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard publicized images of an underground missile base and also has fired off a new long-range surface-to-surface rocket, showing hard-liners will remain a potent force within the Islamic Republic.

Iranian state television announced the decision by the Guardian Council, one of the top leadership bodies in Iran’s cleric-ruled system. The 12-member council, half appointed by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and half by the country’s judicial chief with parliament’s approval, must sign off on all bills before they become law.

Nejatollah Ebrahimian, the council’s spokesman, said the body approved the parliamentary bill implementing the deal “by an absolute majority of the votes.” He did not offer a voting breakdown. The council meets behind closed doors.

Some council “members raised objections to the bill and found it contrary to the constitution. There were debates,” state television quoted Ebrahimian as saying.

“At the end, a majority of the council members voted that the parliamentary legislation is not against the constitution and Shariah law.”

Hard-liners had hoped to stall the deal in order to weaken Rouhani’s administration ahead of February’s parliamentary elections.

But many in Iran applauded the final nuclear deal, struck July 14 in Vienna, as it lifts crippling economic sanctions in exchange for limits on the nuclear program.

Yesterday, hard-line lawmakers shouted, scuffled and wept during a final parliamentary hearing on the bill, but 161 lawmakers voted for it while 59 voted against it and 13 abstained.

Another 17 did not vote at all, while 40 lawmakers did not attend the session.

The council’s decision marks the last approval needed before starting the deal, which came after nearly two years of negotiations between Iran and the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany.