LATEST: Intelligence Ministry: We Warned Against Ashton Meeting with Women’s Rights Activists

The United Nations envoy on Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, will hold talks in Iran on Sunday.

Brahimi presided in January and February over the Geneva II discussions, which did not advance towards a political resolution. The envoy said earlier this week that he saw little hope for a further set of negotiations, reportedly putting most of the blame on President Assad’s officials.

No details have been given of today’s talks, but Iran has been essential to Damascus since the beginning of the uprising in March 2011, providing billions of dollars in economic aid, high-level military advice and support, and reconstruction of damaged infrastructure.

Speaking on Saturday after a UN meeting attended by Brahimi, Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said, “Iran is one of the important regional countries who can play an important role, including impressing upon the Syrian authorities to come to the Geneva conference in a more constructive way.”

Intelligence Ministry: We Warned Against Ashton Meeting with Women’s Rights Activists

The Intelligence Ministry has reassured Parliament that it issued a warning about a meeting between the European Union’s Catherine Ashton and women’s rights activists in Tehran last weekend, according to a leading MP.

Ashton, in Iran for nuclear discussions, met the women at the Austrian Embassy. Leading MPs, clerics, and the Supreme Leader’s representatives denounced the talks with “seditionists”, and the Foreign Ministry complained to the Austrian Embassy.

Facing criticism for permitting the event, Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi told MPs that he had warned the Foreign Ministry about Ashton’s intention to visit “convicts of unrest over the 2009 Presidential election”, said Mansour Haghighatpour, the deputy head of Parliament’s National Security Commission.

One of the activists at the meeting, Narges Mohammadi, responded to the anti-Ashton campaign:

I don’t know how they can accuse me of armed sedition. But I do know they have nothing to prove their accusations.

This is an immoral move by members of the Parliament and some websites and newspapers….Apparently they are allowed to attack us but we have no means to defend ourselves.

Larijani: US “Has Nothing to Say in Nuclear Negotiations”

Addressing Parliament on Saturday, Speaker Ali Larijani criticized Washington for obstruction of nuclear talks:

It seems that the US is now aware that it has nothing to say in the nuclear negotiations and it should accept that their resolutions have no legitimacy, therefore, it has told its elements to create a new atmosphere and divert the negotiations from its path in a dusty atmosphere.

The US and UN officials should know that they are responsible for rocking the boat in negotiations and they can never again say that this has been Iran which has left the negotiations table.

Iran and the 5+1 Powers opened talks on a comprehensive nuclear deal last month. The discussions resume on Tuesday in Vienna.

Speaking on Saturday at a press conference with his Greek counterpart, Iranian Foreign Mohammad Javad Zarif lashed out at high-level American rhetoric as “rife with misconceptions”.

Zarif was responding to a remark by US Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday that Iran should take “tough” decisions in the nuclear talks: “They have been advertising the idea that Iran seeks nuclear weapons, but I would say that Iran took decisions to announce that it is not seeking nuclear weapons.”

Zarif advised Washington to “avoid statements which they would be forced to reject later”, such as its initial declaration that Iran has no right to enrichment of uranium.

Today, at a press conference with the Belorussian Foreign Minister, Zarif was less strident but cautioned:

We don’t expect to reach a deal in this round of talks (in Geneva). Nor was a deal on the agenda for this round of talks. We have agreed to discuss a number of issues in this round.