LATEST: Larijani Criticizes European MPs for Meeting Ex-Political Prisoners Sotoudeh and Panahi

Technical talks on the interim nuclear deal between Iran and the 5+1 Powers (US, Russia, China, Britain, France, and Germany) have been suspended until after the Christmas holidays.

The halt to the 2nd set of talks, after four days in Geneva, was announced after a Sunday afternoon phone call between Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (pictured) and the European Union’s foreign policy head Catherine Ashton, the lead negotiator for the 5+1.

Zarif had cautioned earlier that the talks were proceeding “slowly”: “I hope all sides will avoid delving into issues that could become troublesome and complicate the process.”

Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi, Iran’s lead negotiator, added more doubt when he told State TV that there were “incorrect interpretations” in settling a protocol to implement the deal.

The talks were trying to establishment implementation of the November 24 deal. Issues include Iran’s suspension of enrichment of uranium to 20% and the start of relaxation of US-led sanctions on Tehran.

Larijani Criticizes European MPs for Meeting Ex-Political Prisoners Sotoudeh and Panahi

Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani has joined the criticism of European MPs who met former political prisoners Nasrin Sotoudeh and Jafar Panahi last week.

During a trip to Tehran where they saw high-level officials including President Rouhani, the MPs hosted human rights lawyer Sotoudeh and award-winning film director Panahi at the Greek Embassy. The two were co-winners of the European Union’s 2012 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought — awarded while Sotoudeh was serving a six-year prison sentence and Panahi was under house arrest.

“What the delegation has done was a cheap and bad move because when a delegation travels to a country, it should act according to its working agenda, and holding secret meetings, specially for the Europeans, was a cheap action,” Larijani said in an open session of Parliament on Sunday.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry called in the Greek charge d’affaires to protest the meeting.

Head of Qods Force: “US Collapsing in All Areas”

The head of elite Qods Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps has challenged the US, claiming its threats against Iran are empty because of its weakness:

Qassem Soleimani said in a speech in southeastern Iran on Sunday:

The Americans and [President] Obama are lying when they assert that all options are on the table against Iran.

That the Americans say we have brought Iran to its knees by pressures and sanctions is nothing more than a lie, rather it is the US which has collapsed in political, economic and military arenas which are considered as the main elements of power.

Soleimani said the US is the “most hated country in the world” and “has also failed in the military aspect in any country against which it has waged a war, including Iraq and Afghanistan”.