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Iranian Parliament Suspends Talks On Joining UN Anti-Crime Convention

IRAN -- Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (C) delivers a speach to the parliament in Tehran on August 20, 2017, as Iran's parliament prepares to vote on the president's cabinet.

The Iranian Parliament has postponed talks on joining the UN Convention Against Transnational Organized Crimes (UNTOC) for two months, the Tasnim news agency reported on June 10.

On June 9, hard-line clerics and seminary students gathered in front of Speaker Ali Larijani’s office in Qom in a demonstration against the move to join UNTOC, calling on Larijani and other MPs to reject the move.

Larijani is Qom’s MP and has an office in the religious city,south of Tehran, where he happened to be visiting at the time.

According to Tasnim, MPs would wait for the outcome of Iran’s negotiations with France, Germany, and the United Kingdom over the fate of the nuclear deal following the U.S.pullout in May.

The demonstrators in Qom ruled out joining UNTOC as a “disgrace.” Meanwhile, hard-line MP Seyed Javad Abtahi told Tasnim, “Joining UNTOC would weaken Iran’s defensive power.”

In another development, hard-line clerics at Qom Seminary met with Larijani On June 9 to discuss the implications of joining the convention, which is a requirement of FATF (Financial Action Task Force), a G-7 initiative to combat money laundering and financial terrorism, Fars news agency reported.

Iran is continuing talks with FATF in order to be excluded from its blacklist. FATF places Iran beside North Korea at the top of the list of countries with the highest economic and financial risks.

The bill to join UNTOC is only one of the four bills tabled by the parliament in recent weeks. However, hardliners have shown unusual sensitivity to this particular bill as they believe joining the convention would prevent Iran from sending money to Hamas and the Lebanese Hezballah.

Hamas is listed as a terrorist group in Canada, the United States, and Israel, and the EU recognizes its military wing as a terrorist group.

The Lebanese Hezballah is also listed as a terrorist group by the United States, the Netherlands, the Arab League, and Israel, while the EU recognizes its military wing as a terrorist group.

Both groups have repeatedly confirmed receiving money and military equipment from Iran.

Meanwhile, the hard-line faction of the parliament issued a statement against joining the convention, saying joining UNTOC “would provide new legal instruments for the enemies of the Islamic Republic” that would lead to “increasing sanctions against Iranian government institutions such as the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, IRGC,” adding, “This would ultimately take Iran’s case to the Hague International Tribunal and the UN Security Council,” Tasnim reported.

Previously, the Rouhani administration had assured hardliners that joining UNTOC and FATF would not limit Iran’s support for the Lebanese and Palestinian groups.

Iran’s hard-line news agencies quoted a number of MPs as saying that joining FATF and UNTOC are among the requirements set by the European signatories to the nuclear deal with Iran, also called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), during recent negotiations with the Iranian delegation.