Zarif: Effort to Reach Final Draft Agreement on Thursday Morning
Tehran Rejects UN Resolution on Human Rights
Nuclear Talks Move Into Bilateral Meetings
Initial Meetings Underway in Geneva Nuclear Talks
Supreme Leader Backs Nuclear Talks…But Then Strikes Out at US
Supreme Leader Leads Denunciation of Beirut Bombs


Video: Foreign Minister Zarif’s YouTube Address on Eve of Nuclear Talks

Delegations from Iran and the 5+1 Powers arrive in Geneva on Wednesday to resume negotiations over Tehran’s nuclear program.

Talks in Geneva two weeks ago unexpectedly surged towards an interim agreement, only for France to raise objections that prevented signature of the deal.

Since then, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has tried to clear one of the major hurdles by saying that public recognition of Iran’s right to enrich uranium may not be necessary — even though a deal would effectively do that by accepting Tehran’s enrichment up to the 5% level.

However, there has been no open movement on France’s other chief objection, the construction of the Arak heavy-water nuclear plant. Critics of Arak, due on-line in late 2014, claim that its by-product of plutonium could be used in a militarized nuclear program.

Questions may also remain over the disposition of Iran’s stock of 20% uranium, even though Tehran has indicated it will suspend production in return for an easing of sanctions.

More signs of a possible accommodation were put out on Tuesday. Zarif put out a YouTube video calling on the 5+1 Powers to accept Iran’s “dignity” in the pursuit of nuclear energy, and President Rouhani spoke with British Prime Minister David Cameron by phone — the first contact between Iranian and British leaders in a decade.

A spokesperson for Cameron said:

The two leaders discussed the bilateral relationship between Britain and Iran welcoming the steps taken since President Rouhani took office, including the appointment of non-resident Charges d’Affaires last week. They agreed to continue efforts to improve the relationship on a step by step and reciprocal basis.

On Iran’s nuclear programme, both leaders agreed that significant progress had been made in the recent Geneva negotiations and that it was important to seize the opportunity presented by the further round of talks which get underway tomorrow.

Zarif: Effort to Reach Final Draft Agreement on Thursday Morning

Speaking at the end of Wednesday’s talks, Foreign Minister Zarif has said, “Serious discussions will begin [on Thursday] with [lead 5+1 negotiator Catherine] Ashton in order to reach final draft agreement”.

Tehran Rejects UN Resolution on Human Rights

The Foreign Ministry has rejected as politically motivated a United Nations resolution which expresses “deep concern” over Iran’s human rights record.

The Canadian-drafted resolution criticized abuses; the widespread use of the death penalty, particularly for minors; and amputations and flogging as punishments.

At the same time, it welcomed pledges by President Rouhani for relaxing some restrictions, including freedom of women from discrimination and freedom of expression.

“Iran condemns the use of human rights issue as a political tool… and strongly rejects the resolution and its content,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham said.

Nuclear Talks Move Into Bilateral Meetings

Michael Mann, the spokesperson for the 5+1 Powers, sends an update via Twitter:

Initial Meetings Underway in Geneva Nuclear Talks

This afternoon’s meeting between Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and the European Union’s Cathrine Ashton, the lead negotiator for the 5+1 Powers, has concluded.

A plenary session between Iran and the 5+1 delegations at 6 p.m. Geneva time.

An Iranian diplomat told Nasim Online that the atmosphere of talks has returned to “positive” after the “negative” end to the talks 11 days ago.

Supreme Leader Backs Nuclear Talks…But Then Strikes Out at US

Addressing 50,000 members of the Basij militia at the Imam Khomeini Mosalla in Tehran on Wednesday morning, the Supreme Leader has backed the nuclear talks in Geneva under the slogan of “heroic flexibility” that he issued in September:

Ayatollah Khamenei said he would not get involved in the nuclear negotiations, but he declared that the Government would insist on the “stabilization of the rights of the Iranian nation, including nuclear rights”:

There are red lines. There are limits. These limits must be observed.

We have told the authorities, and they are required to observe the limits and should not fear the blusters of the enemies and opponents.

The Supreme Leader then put out a message to Americans:

Any gesture of conciliation was overtaken, however, as Ayatollah Khamenei identified the “>Global Arrogance” as Washington, not only citing “crimes against natives” but also the “deaths of hundreds of thousands of Japanese by atomic bombs, the deaths of almost 300 Iranians in an airplane shot down by the US Navy in 1988, and American support for Saddam Hussein —including his use of chemical weapons — in the 1980s Iran-Iraq War.

And the Supreme Leader had no kind words for the Israelis:

Or the French:

The setting for the speech:

Supreme Leader Leads Denunciation of Beirut Bombs

The Supreme Leader’s office has used Twitter to denounce Tuesday’s double bombing in Lebanon that killed at least 25 people.

Three Iranians, including the Cultural Attache, died in the attack by a suicide bomber and a car bomb near the Iranian Embassy in Beirut. The Iranian Ambassador narrowly escaped — he was just about to leave the Embassy and join the Cultural Attache in a waiting car when the suicide bomb detonated.

Six guards, including the Lebanese head of security, were also slain.

Ayatollah Khamenei’s office also left a cryptic message of blame:

Even though it was claimed by a Lebanese Sunni group, the Iranian Ambassador to Lebanon said that Israel was behind the attack, . The Iranian Foreign Ministry echoed, “The Islamic Republic of Iran [holds] the Zionists and their mercenaries responsible for this action.”

President Rouhani has also put out a statement:

And Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani had some critical comments, “US and Israel benefited most from the blast in Beirut. They always seek Muslim disunity in Lebanon.” #Iran