LATEST: Attacks on Rafsanjani Escalate as Assembly of Experts Prepares to Elect Head

UPDATE 1530 GMT: Discussion in the Vienna talks between Iran and the 5+1 Powers has moved to the arrangement of an extension of an interim nuclear agreement, due to expire on July 20.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif denied reports that Tehran has agreed to the extension, following talks with US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns. However, Iranian media are reporting from “sources” that the current talks will end on Vienna, with an extension of “several months” as delegations consult in their national capitals.

Despite a third meeting in three days between US Secretary of State John Kerry and Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Tuesday, there was no apparent move towards a comprehensive nuclear agreement by a July 20 deadline.

The two Ministers met in the morning, with each continuing to hail a “good atmosphere” and the genuine efforts of the other side for a resolution. However, Kerry was clear that Iran had not moved towards the US-European line on the central issue — the number of centrifuges and their output, Separative Work Units, for Iran’s enrichment of uranium.

Kerry claimed “tangible progress” but said that Iran and the 5+1 Powers (US, Britain, Germany, France, China, and Russia) “had not yet found the right combination or workable formula” on Iran’s 19,000 centrifuges, about half of which are operational: “We have made it crystal clear that the 19,000 that are currently part of their program is too many.”

Iran is saying that it must be able to produce 190,000 Separative Work Units from centrifuges for self-sufficiency in its supply of nuclear reactors for civilian purposes. Those SWUs can be produced by: 1) a 10-fold increase in Iran’s stock of centrifuges; 2) the existing number of centrifuges, but with advanced IR-2m and IR-4 models rather than the 40-year-old IR-1 models currently in use; or 3) a combination of expansion and introduction of newer models.

The US and Europe have insisted that Iran must cut its stock of centrifuges and have not shiftly publicly on their opposition to operation of IR-2m centrifuges, let alone development of IR-4s.

The talks in Vienna, the sixth set seeking a comprehensive agreement, resumed on July 2 in Vienna. An interim nuclear agreement, reached in November, expires on Sunday.

Kerry left Vienna soon after his meeting with Zarif and indicated he would not return to Vienna before Sunday.

Zarif pointed to an extension of the interim agreement to allow discussions to continue, “I see an inclination on the part of our negotiating partners that they believe more time may be useful and necessary.”

The Foreign Minister asserted, “We have reached a point in the drafting of the text where a solution is possible….The text of the nuclear agreement will be finalized in a few days.”

Attacks on Rafsanjani Escalate as Assembly of Experts Prepares to Elect Head

As the Assembly of Experts prepares to elect a new head to replace the comatose Ayatollah Mahdavi Kani, attacks are building against former President Hashemi Rafsanjani.

Rafsanjani was head of the Assembly from 2007 to 2011, when his re-election bid was defeated by Mahdavi Kani. Many saw the setback as the end of Rafsanjani’s political career, but he has regained influence through the election of his protégé Hassan Rouhani as President.

Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, a leader of Tehran Friday Prayers, issued a warning without naming Rafsanjani: “Some of the supporters of the Sedition want to conquer the Assembly of Experts and it is the duty of the Guardian Council to stand against them.”

See also Rafsanjani Asks Supreme Leader to Free Detained Opposition Leaders Mousavi & Karroubi

Asadollah Badamchian, the deputy head of the conservative Motalefeh Party, called for care about the election “so that the Sedition Current and their supporters, especially the Reformists, cannot enter either the parliament or the Assembly of Experts”.

And Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi challenged both Rafsanjani and Rouhani:

When we talk about morality, culture, and the hereafter, they humiliate us and say we are hallucinating and that their main issue is the sanctions, even though they still haven’t done anything about them.

I’m surprised that =m even though the other man (Rafsanjani) is old and so should be thinking about death, he is still after gathering wealth and he talks nonsense.

Rafsanjani hit back by saying that his critics, including Mesbah Yazdi, are putting people under pressure and seek to create censorship. He called them “Iranian Takfiris”.

The former President said on his website, in a reference to the disputed 2009 Presidential ballot, “The Sedition is the result of injustice. Sedition is when some people use the government’s facilities to affect the election.”

Rouhani Government: Economic Situation Worst in Islamic Republic’s History

The Rouhani Government has released its proposals to revive Iran’s economy.

None of the measures are surprising: increasing domestic production and exports; renewing housing stock; strengthening the capital market; expanding energy industry; increasing foreign currency reserves; reducing inflation and unemployment; promoting the tourist sector; and overhauling Iran’s financial and banking system.

What is more striking is the introduction to the report, setting the current context versus that of the Iran-Iraq War from 1980-1988: “Even during wartime, we did not observe two subsequent years when Gross Domestic Product was negative while inflation was above 30%.”

(Featured Photo: Jim Bourg/Reuters)

Interior Minister: Wearing of Hijab Should Not Be Ensured Through Force

Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli appears to have called for an end to force against women with “improper” hijab (head covering).

Fazli said in a meeting on public security on Monday that the observation of hijab should not be brought by force or pressure. He added that hijab should satisfy God rather than fulfilling “political purposes”.

The remarks sounded like a jab at hardliners who have demanded that Fazli back the “morality police” who monitor women’s dress in public. In June, MPs summoned Fazli to the Majlis for an explanation about his approach and then gave him a warning.

The Minister said on Monday, “We will deal with those who oppose hijab in an organized way.”

In June, MPs summoned Fazli to Majlis to ask him for an explanation about the observation of hijab in the country and gave him a warning.