LATEST: Tehran Mayor Defends Gender Segregation, Refusal to Hire Women in City Offices

As expected, Iran and the 5+1 Powers agreed on Friday to a four-month extension of an interim nuclear agreement, allowing for further negotiations on a comprehensive agreement.

The two sides concluded 16 days of talks in Vienna with the acceptance that gaps on key issues — notably the number and level of Iran’s centrifuges for uranium enrichment — were too large to reach a deal by July 20, when November’s interim agreement expires.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and the European Union’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said in a joint statement:

While we have made tangible progress on some of the issues and have worked together on a text for a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, there are still significant gaps on some core issues which will require more time and effort.

We, together with the Foreign Ministers of the E3+3 (5+1 Powers), have therefore decided to extend the implementation of measures of the Joint Plan of Action until 24 November 2014.

Zarif and Ashton did not give a date for the resumption of the talks, but diplomats have indicated this could be in September.

US Secretary of State John Kerry issued a supporting statement in Washington. He said that there had been “real progress” on issues such as the desigh of the Arak heavy-water nuclear reactor, the conversion of the enrichment plant at Fordoo, and arrangements for monitoring and verification.

However, Kerry added, “There are very real gaps on issues such as enrichment capacity at the Natanz enrichment facility. This issue is an absolutely critical component of any potential comprehensive agreement.”

Deputy Iranian Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said Iran will receive another $2.8 billion in unfrozen assets over the next four months.

The US and European countries released $4.5 billion over the six months of the interim agreement between January and July.

Tehran Mayor Defends Gender Segregation, Refusal to Hire Women in City Offices

Tehran Mayor Mohammad-Baqer Qalibaf of Tehran has defended a measure to segregate male and female workers in city offices: “We have religious honour and will not permit women to socialize and have contact with men other than their husbands.”

Qalibaf blamed “foreign media” for negative portrayal of the initiative.

Tehran’s municipal offices have also said they will not be hiring women as office managers, secretaries, and typists “to protect (them) against familial and social damage”.

President Rouhani’s advisor on women’s affairs, Shahindokht Molaverdi, said the Government is studying the decision and will meet the Tehran City Council to discuss the measures.

Tehran Friday Prayer: Israel is “On Verge of Complete Destruction”

Delivering the Tehran Friday Prayer Hojatoleslam Kazem Seddiqi condemned Israel’s attacks in Gaza and said the Israelis are nearing their demise.

Seddiqi said, “Today the Iron Dome (anti-missile system) has failed and this miserable people are on the verge of complete destruction.”

He added, “This calamity has disheartened humanity, and the Muslim countries who claim to be defenders of Human Rights should be awakened and see that this wolf never shows mercy.”