LATEST: Those Arrested for “Computer Crimes” Shown on State TV
Technical talks between Iran and the 5+1 Powers on implementation the November 24 interim nuclear deal have resumed in Vienna.
The two-day discussions will set out steps for Iran’s suspension of enrichment of 20% uranium, with existing stock converted to fuel plates or diluted to 5%, and the lifting of some of the US-led sanctions on Tehran.
The meetings, including nuclear and banking experts, are being held in strict secrecy.
On Wednesday, Iran will resume talks with the International Atomic Energy Agency on the inspection protocol of Tehran’s nuclear facilities. In November, just before the interim deal, the two sides agreed a six-point plan including inspection of the under-construction Arak heavy-water nuclear reactor and Iran’s major uranium mine.
Meanwhile, President Rouhani has stood firm on Iran’s right to enrich, telling MPs in Bushehr in southern Iran:
You see that the world powers, who have dreamed in their minds of destroying Iran’s ability to enrich, have now recognized that they do not have the ability to prevent the advance of this industry and enrichment in Iran due to the domestication and spread of this industry.
The 5+1 Powers did not formally recognize the right to enrich in the interim agreement; however, it is tacitly accepted in the terms of the deal.
Those Arrested for “Computer Crimes” Shown on State TV
Iranian State TV has shown images of several men arrested for “computer crimes”.
The broadcast said the men were in contact with and funded by “espionage networks” and have been charged with “offering reporter training seminars in Turkey and Malaysia”, “Internet activities aiming for a ‘soft overthrow’ of the Iranian regime,” and “contact with foreign media, including the BBC”.
Last week Kerman’s Deputy Prosecutor announced the arrests of 16 website designers and Internet professionals in Kerman Province, stating the charges facing the group of individuals “who worked within a complex security-media network” were “committing cyber crimes and relations with foreigners”. Narenji, a popular website specializing in computer and Internet technology, announced that seven members of its editorial and technical team had been arrested by the Intelligence Unit of the Revolutionary Guards in Kerman.
Consular Services in UK May Return in June 2014
Tehran’s Non-Resident Chargé d’Affaires to Britain, Mohammad Hassan Habibollah Zadeh, has said that “One of the primary goals for the London visit is to review the status of consular services for Iranians in England… If talks go well, beginning June this year, consular services can be provided in London.”
Annual Budget Sees Funding Increase for Foreign Ministry, IRGC
President Hassan Rouhani presented his 2013-2014 annual budget to Parliament on Monday, which included a 50% increase in funds for the Artesh and a 60% increase for the Foreign Ministry and Guardian Council.
The Revolutionary Guards received a 25% increase, while the allocation for the Basij declined.
The total budget was about $74 billion, an approximately 30% increase from last year’s budget.
Rouhani Administration Criticised for Non-Stance on “Leaders of Sedition”
Tehran MP and Steadfastness Front member Ali Asqar Zaraei has criticised the Rouhani administration for not taking a firm stance on the status of 2009 presidential candidates Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, both under house arrest since February 2010.
Zaraei said that “The government has taken an ambiguous position on ending the imprisonment of leaders of the sedition because it does not want to take a stance.”
Zaraei also accused the government of adopting similarly cautious tactics regarding the issue of unrest on university campuses, stating “Rouhani said that the college campuses must be calm in order to solve the economic problems of the country. Unfortunately, however, with the engagement of some problematic individuals who bring forth a lack of calmness on university campuses, the president has made a contradictory decision.”
Top Rouhani Advisor: Economic Decline Reversed With 3% Growth Next Year
Leading Presidential advisor Mohammad Baqer Nobakht has said that Iran will reverse its economic decline, with 3% growth in the Iranian year from March 2014 to March 2015.
Nobakht said the economy was projected to shrink by 0.8% in 2013-2014. He said the fall of investment — 21.9% in 2012-2013 — had been checked, with only a 1.7% drop in 2013-2014, and he predicted it would rise by almost 2% by March 2015.
In October, the International Monetary Fund forecast that Iran’s Gross Domestic Product would shrink 1.5% in 2013 after a 1.9% decline in 2012, but predicted it would grow 1.3% in 2014. However, the IMF said its projections were tentative because of limited data from Tehran.