LATEST: Tehran Gifts Copy of US Drone to Moscow

SUMMARY: Russia’s top nuclear negotiator in the talks between Iran and the 5+1 Powers has confirmed the basic principles of a nuclear deal.

An insistence on confidentiality has prevented almost any disclosure of Tehran’s proposals, called “very useful” by the US and other members of the 5+1. However, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Tuesday that the starting point in last week’s discussions in Geneva was Iran’s suspension of enrichment of uranium to 20%, limiting the level to 5%.

In return, the 5+1 Powers would recognize Iran’s right to enrich and begin lifting sanctions imposed by the European Union and US.

Ryabkov said:

In the absence of trust between the two sides, we have to concentrate on what causes the most concern. Among the six powers, enrichment above 5 percent has always been a focus because the Iranian nuclear program is continuing to expand.

If progress continues at the talks, there’s no reason why we can’t agree on the lifting of all unilateral sanctions. The exact timetable is a matter for discussion.

An Iranian official said just after the Geneva talks that Tehran is offering to stop enrichment of uranium to 20%, converting existing stock to fuel plates, if the right to enrich is acknowledged and removal of major sanctions begins.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, invoking confidentiality, later said that the official did not know the content of Tehran’s proposals.

Tehran Gifts Copy of US Drone to Moscow

The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps has made a gift of a copy of the American ScanEagle drone captured in 2012 to Russia.

IRGC Aerospace Force Commander Amir Ali Hajizadeh said “The drone constructed by the IRGC is a sign of some of the technological and technical capabilities of Iran. Today, an actual model of that [drone] was presented as a gift to [Bondarev] and the Russian people.”

Artesh Air Force Commander Brig. Gen. Hassan Shah Safi also met with Russian Air Force Commander Viktor Bondarev, signing a military agreement which reportedly discusses missiles and defense cooperation.

Martyr Sattari Aviation University Commander Brig. Gen. Mohammad Bakhshandeh welcomed the strengthening of relations between Tehran and Moscow.

Bakhshandeh said “The history of a few decades of cultural, social, political, economic, and military interactions are a sign of the development of the cooperation [between Russia and Iran]. It is hoped that the presence of this respected delegation in this university also provides the development of bilateral scientific and military cooperation.”

(Hat tip: Iran Tracker)

FM Spokeswoman: President and Supreme Leader Coordinate Nuclear Talks

Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Marziyeh Afkham told a press conference that President Hassan Rouhani coordinates the proceedings of the nuclear talks with the Supreme Leader.

Tehran and the P5+1 countries have agreed to meet again in Geneva on November 7-8.

Iran will also hold talks with the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna on October 28-29.

Rouhani Twitter Account Retweets Image of Released Activist

The twitter account of President Rouhani has retweeted a photograph of student activist Majid Tavakoli embracing his mother.

The move is presumably an attempt by Rouhani’s office to associate his administration with the release of political prisoners. The original tweet, by @MeetIran, included the hashtags “hope” and “prudence”, both of which were used by Rouhani’s election campaign.

Tavakoli was released on Monday having spent nearly four years in prison since being arrested following a speech at Tehran’s Amir Kabir University on National Student Day in December 2009.

Government Trying to Reduce Cost of Subsidies

First Vice President Eshagh Jahangiri announced yesterday that the government is looking to “identify the three richest tiers [of society] based on scientific work” in order to reduce the cost of subsidies paid to Iranian families.

According to IranTracker, “this is the first time the government has attempted to classify citizens’ incomes on this broad of a scale.”

The Rouhani administration has recently suggested that, due to financial difficulties leftover from the previous government, subsidies to higher income groups may be cut.

Supreme Leader Orders Release of Prisoners

The Supreme Leader has ordered the sentences of 1,241 prisoners to be either pardoned or reduced, according to reformist newspaper Shargh Daily.

The report claims that a letter from Head of the Judiciary Sadeq Larijani, brother of speaker of parliament Ali Larijani, persuaded Ayatollah Khamenei to adopt the move.

It is unclear what types of convictions the prisoners involved had originally received.

China Imports of Iranian Oil Up 24% in September

China took in 24% more Iranian oil in September, compared to the previous month.

The import of 475,521 barrels per day was Beijing’s third-highest total this year.

Despite the threat of US financial penalties, China’s intake of Iranian oil is 1.4% higher than last year through the end of September.

Chinese oil officials estimated late last year that domestic refiners would cut their Iran shipments at least 5% in 2013 to around 416,400 bpd.

Part of September’s rise was due to the start-up of the Dragon Aromatics petrochemical plant in southern China. Dragon took about 2 million barrels, or about 66,000 bpd, of South Pars condensate in both August and September, and it will continue to do so through the end of the year, according to a trade official with direct knowledge of the plant’s operations.

China’s daily imports are still down more than 20% from a peak of 555,200 bpd in 2011.