Preparing for Monday’s resumption of high-level nuclear talks between Iran and the 5+1 Powers in Vienna, experts from both sides opened discussions on Thursday.
The experts are considering technical issues in the negotiations for a comprehensive agreement, including the number of centrifuges in an Iranian nuclear program, the fate of Tehran’s stock of 20% enriched uranium, the status of Iran’s nuclear facilities, and the timing of the lifting of US-led sanctions.
No details were given; however, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister and lead nuclear negotiator Abbas Araqchi referred to one of the key points, the under-construction Arak heavy-water reactor.
The US and European partners have expressed concern that plutonium by-product from the reactor could be used in a militarized nuclear program.
Iranian officials have indicated that the plant might be “re-designed”, possibly indicating conversion to a light-water reactor.
MP Criticises European Parliament Resolution on Iran Human Rights Situation
Nozar Shafi’ee, a member of the Majlis Committee on National Security and Foreign Policy, criticised a European Parliament resolution on the human rights situation in Iran.
Shafi’ee said “The move by the European Union is [an instance of] meddling in Iran’s domestic affairs.”
He added, “Some of the expectations are unrealistic and only take into consideration the desires of the European Union… the union defines human rights based on its own criteria; likewise, it interprets the presidential election [in Iran] based on the Western standards of democracy. Therefore, such approaches are merely the viewpoint of the EU toward Iran.”
On Thursday, the European Parliament passed a resolution expressing grave concern over the human rights situation in Iran and the “continued, systemic violation of fundamental rights” in the country, and called on the members of the European Union to “mainstream human rights in all of its relations with Iran.”
Sunni Insurgency: We Have Released 4 Border Guards
The Sunni insurgency Jaish Al-Adl says it has released four Iranian border guards, kidnapped on February 6 in southeastern Iran and taken into Pakistan.
Jaish ul-Adl said two weeks ago that it had executed a fifth guard.
A photograph from Jaish ul-Adl shows four men.
— Abas Aslani (@abasinfo) April 4, 2014
An Ahmadinejad Comeback?
After months of silence, former President Mahmud Ahmadinejad has reappeared on the political scene.
On Tuesday, Ahmadinejad made a short speech in Khuzestan in southwestern Iran at a battlefield from the 1980s Iran-Iraq war.
The Supreme Leader spoke at the same location a week earlier.
Ahmadinejad continued Ayatollah Khamenei’s themes of sacrifice and resistance, extending them to the conflict with the US, “We will find peace only when the flag of the martyrs will be waving atop of the White House.”
Iranian observers have been speculating over Ahmadinejad’s appearance near the Supreme Leader at a mourning ceremony on Monday. Only former head of judiciary Hashemi Shahroudi sat between the two men.
Ahmadinejad, who was President from 2005 to 2013, has been out of public view since last August’s inauguration of the Rouhani Government. The Guardian Council blocked his chosen successor, Presidential Chief of Staff Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai, from standing in the June 2013 election.
Deputy Foreign Minister Denies Sunni Insurgents Executed Kidnapped Border Guard
Deputy Foreign Minister Ebrahim Rahimpour has denied that the Sunni insurgency Jaish ul-Adl executed one of five kidnapped Iranian border guards in Pakistan two weeks ago.
“The kidnapped Iranian border guards are safe,” Rahimpour said. “There is no verified information to substantiate the terrorists’ claim of murder of one of the kidnapped soldiers.”
Other Iranian officials had accepted Jaish ul-Adl’s claim, and the case has been headline news in Iranian media — with denunciations of Pakistan and Iran’s Rouhani Government for inaction — since the execution.
Jaish ul-Adl, which has carried out a series of attacks on the Islamic Republic’s forces in Sistan Baluchestan Province in southeastern Iran, seized the men on February 6 and soon took them across the border into Pakistan.
The insurgency hung a sergeant two weeks ago and said it would execute another guard in 10 days if its demands, including the release of 300 detainees from Iranian prisons, were not met.
Earlier this week, Jaish ul-Adl withdrew the threat, saying it was in talks with Iranian officials.