UPDATE 1515 GMT: The issue of Iran’s centrifuges for uranium enrichment continues to be the major sticking point in nuclear negotiations.
Iran has 19,000 centrifuges for enrichment of uranium to 5% and wants to increase the stock; the US and European partners want a significant reduction.
“The Iranians have not yet shown a willingness to reduce their centrifuges to an acceptable number, making it difficult to envision a compromise at this point that we could all live with,” an unnamed negotiator told Reuters.
A “senior Iranian official” said:
What the West offers Iran on the number of centrifuges is like a joke and unacceptable. However, negotiation means trying to overcome disputes and it is what both sides are doing.
As Iran and the 5+1 Powers opened the 5th round of talks on a comprehensive nuclear agreement on Tuesday, Tehran’s lead negotiator called for “realism” from the US and its European allies.
Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said, “Some parties in the P5+1 still have some illusions, still stick to positions which belong to the past.” He cautioned that “a solution can be possible only if all sides” are “realistic”.
Saying there had been 12-13 hours of talks on Tuesday, Araqchi summarized, “The atmosphere is positive but that doesn’t mean each side is getting closer. we still have a lot of work to get to a mutual agreement.”
No details were given of the first plenary session between the two sides in Vienna. Both the Iranians and Michael Mann, the spokesman for the 5+1 Powers, said the discussions are over the draft text of a deal.
Iran and the 5+1 Powers are seeking a comprehensive settlement before the expiry of an interim Joint Plan of Agreement on July 20. Failing that, the negotiators are likely to extend the interim arrangements while continuing talks through the summer and autumn.
Issues to be resolved include the number and level of Iran’s centrifuges for uranium enrichment; the status of nuclear facilities such as the Arak heavy-water reactors; and the lifting of US-led sanctions on Tehran.
Rouhani: We Will Defend Iraqi Shrines
— Hassan Rouhani (@HassanRouhani) June 18, 2014
In a televised speech from western Iran, Rouhani said many Iranians had signed up to defend the sites:
“Regarding the holy Shia shrines in Karbala, Najaf, Khadhimiya and Samarra, we announce to the killers and terrorists that the big Iranian nation will not hesitate to protect holy shrines.”
He declared, “These terrorist groups, and those that fund them, both in the region and in the international arena, are nothing, and hopefully they will be put in their own place.”
The President has denied that any Iranian troops are in Iraq, amid reports that up to 2,000 soldiers — including elements of the elite Qods Force — and Basij militia have entered the country.
Rafsanjani: I Won’t Return to Lead Tehran Friday Prayers
Former President Hashemi Rafsanjani has said he will not return to lead Tehran Friday Prayers, almost five years after he was removed by the regime amid protests about the disputed 2009 Presidential election.
The widow of a martyr from the Iran-Iraq War questioned Rafsanjani about his return.
“Given my current considerations, my presence at Friday prayers wouldn’t be appropriate,” he replied.
Rafsanjani’s last Tehran Friday Prayer in July 2009 supported the right of protest and called for an end to repression of the marches, defying the warning of the Supreme Leader over the rallies.
Head of Armed Forces: US Responsible for Iraqi Insurgency and “Terrorists”
Effectively rejecting the talk of US-Iran cooperation to counter the Iraqi insurgency, the head of Iran’s armed forces, General Hassan Firouzabadi said on Tuesday:
By any meddling and military intervention in Iraq, the Americans are seeking to attain ungracious goals, at the top of which undermining the elections in Iraq, and the crocodile tears of the Americans should not receive any attention, as they are still the allies of the sponsors and supporters of terrorists in the region.
Firouzabadi’s criticism follows similar statements by Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani; the Secretary of the National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani; and the Supreme Leader’s office.
The general also claimed the Islamic State of Iraq and as-Sham was a creation of Israel: “ISIS is Israel’s cover up for distancing the revolutionary forces from Israeli borders and creating a margin of security for the Zionists, and the Zionist media have also admitted this fact.”