Iran Daily, July 15: Confusion in the Nuclear Talks as Deadline Nears

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PHOTO: US Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in discussion

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TUESDAY FEATURE

A Breakthrough Proposal in the Nuclear Talks?

UPDATE 1300 GMT: Following their third meeting in three days, US Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif have issued the standard statements about a good atmosphere for talks, but without resolution of key issues:

Kerry made conciliatory noises about the Supreme Leader’s fatwa against nuclear weapons as an “extremely powerful statement about intent”, but he was firm on the central demand that Iran must reduce its stock of centrifuges: “We have made it crystal clear that the 19,000 that are currently part of their program is too many.”

The US Secretary of State apparently did not discuss whether Iran could maintain fewer but more powerful centrifuges, allowing it to reduce stocks while progressing towards its goal of 190,000 “Separative Work Units” in the enrichment of uranium.

Instead, in response to a question from Reuters about centrifuges — not SWUs — he remarked:

Zarif said he and Kerry had a “good exchange of views”, but put the onus on the US to shift its position, “Washington needs to take a political decision… to end the deadlock.”


As the talks in Vienna between Iran and the 5+1 Powers over a comprehensive nuclear agreement enter a third week, there is confusion over how the two sides will find a way to resolve differences before a July 20 deadline.

The New York Times claims this morning that Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif offered an “innovative proposal” in a 45-minute interview on Monday. However, its tangled presentation does not touch disagreements over the primary issue in dispute: the number and level of Iranian centrifuges for uranium enrichment.

See Iran Analysis: A Breakthrough Proposal in the Nuclear Talks?

Meanwhile, Reuters describes the consequences of the Supreme Leader breaking the secrecy of the talks in a speech last week, when he revealed the central issue as one of the “Separative Work Units” produced by the centrifuges — he said Iran wants a 20-fold increase to 190,000 SWU, but US and European allies are arguing for a freeze at the current level:

A major speech by Iran’s Supreme Leader has limited the ability of the Iranian delegation at high-level nuclear talks to make concessions with six world powers and this could scuttle chances for Tehran to reach an accord to end sanctions, diplomats said.

The Reuters report could be attributed to pressure by the Western “diplomats” on Tehran by presenting it as unreasonable; however, the journalists say their claim is buttressed by “two Iranian sources”.

The two sides face a July 20 deadline, when an interim agreement expires.

In addition to the issue of centrifuges, the two sides are also trying to resolves questions such as the status of Iranian nuclear facilities, including the Fordoo enrichment plant and the Arak heavy-water reactor; arrangements for inspection and supervision; lifting of US-led sanctions; and the duration of an agreement.

Iran’s Press TV puts a positive spin on the challenge, featuring US Secretary of State John Kerry’s presentation of “serious discussions” in a “good meeting” with Zarif and European Union foreign policy head Catherine Ashton on Monday.


Tehran Municipality Bars Women From Jobs

Alef reports that women are no longer allowed to work as secretary, typist, office manager, or chief of staff in Tehran municipality offices.

Another 8 Iranians Given Long Prison Sentences for Use of Facebook

Eight young Iranians have been sentenced to a total of 127 years in prison for their activities on Facebook.

A branch of the Revolutionary Court found the defendants guilty of actions against national security, propaganda against the state, and insults of Islam and state officials.

According to the State news agency IRNA, the eight prisoners were monitored “Sarallah”, an intelligence unit of the Revolutionary Guards from July 2013. They were later arrested, officially charged in February, put on trial on April 14, and sentenced 16 days later.

In May, the same judge sentenced another group of eight young Iranians to a total of 123 years in prison for Facebook activities, on unspecified charges.

Physician and Blogger Khazali Released from Prison After Latest Hunger Strike

Physician and blogger Mehdi Khazali has been released from prison after a 24-day hunger strike, according to the Facebook page of his son.

Khazali, the son of a hardline Ayatollah who has disowned him, has been repeatedly arrested since the disputed 2009 Presidential election.

Noted for his criticism of the Supreme Leader, he was detained again last month and immediately began the hunger strike.

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