Iran earmarks $20 million to support militants

AP News
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Posted: Nov 29, 2009 6:04 AM

Iran's parliament passed a law on Sunday earmarking $20 million to support militant groups opposing the West and investigate alleged U.S. and British plots against the Islamic Republic.

The legislation is widely seen as a response to Western criticism of Iran's violent crackdown against protesters following the disputed June presidential election. Lawmakers started debating the outline of the bill in August when Iran's hardline leaders were fending off allegations that security forces had tortured opposition activists detained during the demonstrations.

The text of the legislation says the money is to "support progressive currents that resist illegal activities by by the governments of the U.S. and Britain." Iranian officials often use such terms to describe militant groups.

It was not immediately clear which groups would receive funding from Iran, but Tehran already backs the Islamic militants Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

The bill also taps funds to "confront plots and unjust restrictions" by the Washington and London against Tehran and to disclose "human rights abuses by the two countries."

A committee with representatives from Iran's intelligence services, the elite Revolutionary Guards, as well as the Foreign Ministry and the communication and culture ministries will mangage the funds.

Iran's constitutional watchdog must still approve the bill before it takes effect.

The move comes as Iran also faces increasing international pressure over its disputed nuclear program.

On Thursday, the board of the International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA, passed a resolution demanding that Tehran immediately stop building its newly revealed nuclear facility and freeze uranium enrichment. The IAEA resolution criticized Iran for defying a U.N. Security Council ban on uranium enrichment _ the source of both nuclear fuel and the fissile core of warheads.

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Iran's parliament speaker, Ali Larijani, warned on Sunday that Tehran could scale back its cooperation with the IAEA if the West continues to pressure Tehran over its nuclear program. That follows similar threats from other Iranian officials in recent days.

To that end, lawmakers asked the government on Sunday to begin drawing up a bill to reduce cooperation with U.N. nuclear agency.