Mixed Views in Majlis on China Role in Arak Project

Mixed Views in Majlis on China Role in Arak Project
Mixed Views in Majlis on China Role in Arak Project

Lawmakers appear to have differing views on whether China could play an effective role in the redesigning the Arak heavy water reactor, with some saying that it is an unreliable partner.

As agreed under last July's nuclear agreement, Iran, China and the United States are to cooperate in redesigning and rebuilding the Arak facility.  

China and the US, along with four other major powers, namely France, Britain, Russia and Germany, negotiated the deal with Iran.

Formally titled the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the agreement came into effect in January to provide for sanctions relief in return for temporary curbs on Tehran's nuclear program.

Among the curbs is the call to reconfigure the Arak reactor, converting it into a conventional facility.

Iran has consistently denied its nuclear program may have been aimed at developing a nuclear bomb, saying it was and is for civilian purposes only.

A joint "statement of intent" was released by Tehran, Washington and Beijing on Oct. 18, 2015 to announce cooperation on the Arak modernization project and, shortly afterward, the three signed a related document.

The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran has announced that the three will hold a trilateral meeting in the coming weeks to coordinate their cooperation.

  Airtight Contract

Alireza Rahimi, member of the Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, told ICANA on Friday that the meetings are expected to produce an "airtight" contract.

He also expressed dissatisfaction with the delay in the start of the project, saying, "Some problems must have occurred that have prevented the launch of the project. It is likely that another country will replace China in the cooperation project."

Another lawmaker Ezzatollah Yousefian described Beijing as an "unreliable" partner, citing its poor past record.

"China might have close political relations with us, but it has had a poor performance in implementing its commitments under bilateral agreements so far."

He said Iran should declare in the upcoming meeting that it might consider finding an alternative to China for cooperation on Arak.

However, another member of the foreign policy panel Morteza Saffari says Beijing is still a reliable partner for the Islamic Republic.

"The trilateral meeting with China and the United States is very important and could prompt China to begin carrying out the project."

"The Chinese have the wherewithal to simultaneously implement both the Arak project and the construction of small power plants in Iran," he noted.