Delivering the Tehran Friday Prayer, Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi emphasized that Iran will not close nuclear facilities in any agreement with the 5+1 Powers.
Sedighi declared, “The Supreme Leader stated that we will not retreat from the achievements that scientists have achieved in the matter of peaceful nuclear energy. Therefore, by the order of (Ayatollah Khamenei)…the Arak heavy water reactor and other facilities are not closeable whatsoever.”
Iranian officials have insisted that research and development of Iran’s nuclear program cannot be halted and that Tehran’s 19,000 centrifuges for enrichment of uranium must continue to operate. However, they have offered the “re-design” of the Arak reactor, which Western countries fear will produce plutonium by-product that can be used in a militarized nuclear program.
Iran and the 5+1 Powers completed the third round of talks on a comprehensive deal last week. The next talks are scheduled for mid-May in Vienna.
Meanwhile, the Revolutionary Guards, who have been sceptical of the talks in the past, have given a back-handed endorsement. Their weekly magazine declared that Iran is achieving its fundamental goals because of US difficulties:
One of the reasons for the inclination of America and the West for a low-cost agreement with Iran that gains the most concessions is that they lack new options should the agreements fail or are incapable of remaining hopeful in the practical guarantee of their tools of sanctions or their other tools in the international system.
The explanation of the Guards’ Cultural Deputy, Hossein Saffar Harandi, was even more convoluted — and risked pointing to Iranian, rather than American, concessions from weakness:
We, in theory, will not back down a particle from our ideals. It is, however, possible that that we have apparently backed down, which the Supreme Leader interprets as heroic flexibility. But this does not mean that we have backed down a step from our ideals.
(h/t Iran Tracker)
Top Official Salehi: Agreement Close on Arak Heavy-Water Reactor
Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization, has said that agreement is close with the 5+1 Powers on the design of the Arak heavy-water nuclear reactor.
Western countries claim that the Arak reactor, due on-line by the end of 2014, will generate plutonium by-product which can be used for a militarized nuclear program.
Salehi said the issue was “virtually resolved” with a re-design to produce 1/5 of the projected plutonium.
Imprisoned Iranian-American Hekmati Appeals to Foreign Minister
Amir Hekmati, the Iranian-American national given a 10-year sentence for espionage, has written a letter of appeal to Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.
Hekmati, a former US Marine who was detained in August 2011 when he came to Tehran to see relatives for the first time, wrote Zarif, “What I ask of you as an Iranian citizen, a compatriot, as someone who has been separated from his family for 30 months, is freedom from prison.”
Hekmati was initially sentenced to death. The sentence was overturned, but he was given the 10-year term last week for “practical collaboration with the American government”.
The Iranian-American’s lawyer said Hekmati was not informed about the retrial, conviction, or sentence.
In December 2011, Iranian State TV broadcast Hekmati’s “confession”. He denied that he had admitted to spying, writing US Secretary of State John Kerry that the “confession” was “obtained by force, threats, miserable prison conditions, and prolonged periods of solitary confinement”.
Students Disciplined After Monday Protest Over Political Prisoners & Nuclear Talks
At least nine students have been summoned by Amir Kabir University’s disciplinary committee following protests on Monday.
Students greeted a speech by Saeed Jalili, the hardline former nuclear negotiator, with calls for engagement with the 5+1 Powers in current talks and the release of opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi from 38 months of house arrest.
Oil Ministry Gives Downbeat Assessment of Exports for 2014-2015
Despite a recent recovery in Iran’s oil exports, Deputy Oil Minister Mansour Moazami has given a downbeat assessment of prospects for 2014-2015.
Moazami, who said last year was the worst-ever for the Islamic Republic’s energy sector, said officials expect 1.2 million barrels per day in crude oil exports from March 2014 to March 2015.
Iran’s exports were 2.2 million bpd at the start of 2012, before the effect of US-led sanctions. They have rebounded from a historic low of 800,000 bpd last year to 1.6 million bpd in February.
US officials have said they expect Iran’s exports to be capped at 1 million bpd until a comprehensive nuclear agreement is reached.
State outlet Press TV tries to convert the assessment into a celebration, “Iran Crude Oil Exports Soar to 1.2mn bpd: Official“.