iran oil - Glenn Klasner - December 12 2011
An Iranian ship. Photo by Glenn Klasner
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An Iranian semiofficial news agency says a parliamentary committee has approved a bill requiring the government to design nuclear-powered merchant ships and provide them with nuclear fuel.

Iran says it is designing a nuclear submarine. But nuclear-powered ships other than warships are rare and the International Atomic Energy Agency has said in the past that such merchant ships would be uneconomical.

The bill appears to be a symbolic gesture to bolster Tehran's argument that it has a right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes. The West says Iran's nuclear program is aimed at developing weapons technology, a charge Tehran denies.

Lawmaker Mohammad Bayatian is quoted by the semi-official Mehr news agency as saying Sunday that the bill will be debated in the parliament next week.