LATEST: Interior Minister: We May Go Into Pakistan for 5 Abducted Border Guards

The Supreme Leader said on Monday morning that he is “not optimistic” about nuclear talks with the US and other countries, but he still backs the Rouhani Government in the negotiations.

Ayatollah Khamenei spoke as Iran’s nuclear negotiating team, led by Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (pictured), arrived in Vienna for comprehensive nuclear talks with the 5+1 Powers.

Zarif will meet the lead 5+1 negotiator, European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, on Monday night. Formal talks with the 5+1’s representatives, including US Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman, will begin on Tuesday.

Iran and the 5+1 Powers signed an interim nuclear deal in November in Geneva. The six-month agreement, covering issues such as Tehran’s enrichment of uranium and a start to the easing of US-led sanctions, came into effect on January 20.

The two sides have set a target of January 2015 for the comprehensive settlement, which will cover matters such as the number of Iran’s advanced nuclear centrifuges and the status of the Arak heavy-water reactor as well as the full lifting of the sanctions.

The Rouhani Government has faced criticism within Iran of the nuclear discussions and an escalation of anti-US rhetoric by the Revolutionary Guards and other factions. So far, the Supreme Leader has backed the President, in return for the Government’s pull-back from efforts for political and cultural “openness”.

However, Khamenei used Monday’s address to deride the Americans:

Interior Minister: We May Go Into Pakistan for 5 Abducted Border Guards

Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani-Fazli said on Monday that Tehran may send forces into Pakistan to free five kidnapped border guards if Islamabad does not act.

The guards were seized on February 6 by the Sunni insurgency Jaish ul-Adl in Sistan Baluchestan Province in southeastern Iran. Iranian officials believe they were subsequently taken across the Pakistani border.

“If Pakistan doesn’t take the needed steps to fight against the terrorist groups, we will send our forces into Pakistani soil. We will not wait for this country,” Rahmani-Fazli said.

The deputy head of armed forces, General Hossein Hassani Sa’di, said Iran would “show tough confrontation in this case”: “We will have no soft stand in this case and our neighbouring country…should account for its lack of action.”

Political Activist Barjasteh Imprisoned

Political activist Kazem Barjasteh, a member of Mir Hossein Mousavi’s campaign team in the disputed 2009 Presidential election, has been arrested to serve a five-year prison sentence..

Barjasteh, who was detained during Ashura protests in December 2009, was taken to Evin Prison on Thursday as he returned to Iran.