LATEST: Iran Deal to Sell Arms and Ammunition to Iraq

Iran’s regime has continued its praise of last week’s opening talks on a comprehensive nuclear agreement with the 5+1 Powers, saying they are a “milestone for building confidence”.

Mohsen Rezaei, the Secretary of the Expediency Council, made the declaration in a meeting with the Australian Ambassador on Sunday.

Rezaei expressed hope that the discussions are “a turning point” for “a strong basis for Iran’s future relations with the Western states”.

Significantly, Rezaei’s statement is featured in Fars, the outlet of the Revolutionary Guards, signalling the acceptance of Iran’s military of the talks. The Guards have been sceptical since President Rouhani embarked on his effort last summer, leading to November’s interim nuclear deal on enrichment of uranium and a start to the easing of US-led sanctions.

The high-level talks will resume in Vienna on March 17. Before that, experts from both sides will meet to discuss technical arrangements and details.

Iran Deal to Sell Arms and Ammunition to Iraq

Iran has signed a deal to sell $195 million of arms and ammunition to Iraq, according to documents seen by Reuters.

The agreement was reached at the end of November, weeks after Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki returned from a trip to Washington where he asked the Obama Administration for extra weapons.

Al-Maliki’s spokesman would not confirm nor deny the sale, but said a deal would be understandable: “We are launching a war against terrorism and we want to win this war. Nothing prevents us from buying arms and ammunition from any party and it’s only ammunition helping us to fight terrorists.”

The Iranian regime denied any knowledge of a deal.

The official documents, signed by officials from the Iraqi and Iranian Defence Ministries, covered eight contracts. Six were signed with Iran’s Defence Industries Organization to supply Iraq with light and medium arms, mortar launchers, ammunition for tanks, artiller,y and mortars.

State-owned Iran Electronic Industries was authorized by two contracts to sell night-vision goggles, communications equipment, and mortar0guiding devices.

One of the contracts includes equipment to protect against chemical agents.

Iran Seeking Doubling of Trade with China

Iran and China have announced a “road map” to double bilateral trade by 2017.

Finance and Economic Affairs Minister Ali Tayyebnia and China’s Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng signed the agreement in Tehran on Sunday.

A delegation of 110 Chinese traders will travel to Iran on March 2 to attend a conference on investment opportunities.

Bilateral trade between Iran and China, Tehran’s largest customer for oil, was $36 billion in 2012.

The Islamic Republic’s non-oil exports fell 2.55% between March 2013 and January 2014.

Iran Eases Criticism of Pakistan Over Abduction of 5 Border Guards

Iran has eased its criticism of Pakistan over the abduction of five Iranian border guards by a Sunni insurgent group in southeastern Iran on February 3.

Tehran had chided Pakistani officials for a failure to act on the case of the guards, seized by the faction Jaish ul-Adl in Sistan-Baluchestan Province. Iranian authorities say the men were taken across the border into Pakistan.

Some Iranian MPs even called for the Islamic Republic’s forces to enter Pakistan to retrieve the guards.

However, Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli said Sunday that his staff had met with Pakistani counterparts, who “promised to cooperate positively and effectively”:

We are pursuing the issue seriously and we have conducted a number of meetings with Pakistani officials in this regard and they have vowed to positively cooperate with Iran….

Pakistan had set off forces to the region for an investigation of the issue. We should solve the issue in peaceful conditions far from propagandist provocations.

Iranian media claimed, without giving details, that Tehran’s officials were in Islamabad last week to discuss steps to resolve the abduction.