Iran and the 5+1 Powers resume nuclear talks in New York on Wednesday, amid growing questions over whether they can reach a comprehensive agreement by a November 24 deadline.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif will meet the European Union’s Catherine Ashton, the lead representative for the 5+1. Bilateral talks between Iran and members of the 5+1 — US, Britain, France, Germany, China, and Russia — will follow, with the first plenary session on Thursday.
The lead US negotiator, Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman, said Tuesday that while Iran and the 5+1 have “identified potential answers to some key questions”, they “remain far apart on other core issues, including the size and scope of Iran’s uranium enrichment capacity”.
Iranian officials, including the Supreme Leader, have said that Iran must have a capacity of 190,000 Separative Work Units to support its civil nuclear program. The US and its partners have said they will accept a level of centrifuges providing only a fraction of that output.
Sherman said the US and other powers will only agree lift sanctions on Iran if Tehran takes “convincing and verifiable steps” to show that its nuclear program is and will remain peaceful: “We must be confident that any effort by Tehran to break out of its obligations will be so visible and time-consuming that the attempt would have no chance of success.”
In the past month, the Supreme Leader has cast further doubt on the process by saying that the US is “dishonest” in negotiations. Zarif and President Rouhani have responded cautiously, saying that they still want an agreement by November 24 but that a deal is unlikely before then.
It’s going to be a very tough discussion because we have tough decisions that everybody needs to make in order to move this process forward….
We believe it is possible. We believe that provided that everyone wants to reach a solution, that everybody wants to stick to the agreement that we had in Geneva in November of last year we can, in fact, reach an agreement.
Supreme Leader’s Website Uses Caricature of US Officials to Denounce “Damaging” Nuclear Talks
The Supreme Leader’s website has greeted the resumption of nuclear talks with the 5+1 Powers through caricatures of US officials — including Secretary of State John Kerry and lead American negotiator Wendy Sherman — to denounce the “damaging” discussions:
Yahoo! Restores E-Mail Services For New Iranian Users
Yahoo! has restored access to Iranians to open accounts and use the Messenger services, a year after imposing restrictions that cut off new users.
Last September, Yahoo insisted on a telephone number for all new accounts. Because telephone prefixes for countries under US sanctions were barred from the list, Iranians could not provide necessary ID.
Yahoo! restoration of Iran to the list followed advocacy by human rights groups and organizations pursuing Internet freedom.
Collin Anderson, a researcher with the University of Pennsylvania and Measurement Lab, told the Campaign, “The removal of restrictions by Yahoo! demonstrates that making services available to the Iranian public is both legally permissible and highly welcomed by all. In Iran, as with the United States, the Internet is a core facilitator of education, cultural outreach and personal communication, a fact acknowledged by the legal authorizations for technology issued by United States government this February. American companies bear a moral responsibility to continue to open up access to their services, while maintaining vigilance over privacy and security challenges posed in such environments.”
Brett Salomon, Executive Director of Access, told the Campaign, “We are very pleased that Yahoo changed its policy, which will help a new generation of Iranian Internet users open an account, get online, and connect with the world.”
Report: Blogger Sentenced to Death for “Insult to Prophet Mohammad” on Facebook
A blogger found guilty of insulting the Prophet Mohammad in his postings on Facebook has been sentenced to death, according to the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.
“An informed source” said Soheil Arabi has until Saturday to appeal the decision.
Arabi was arrested in November 2013 and kept in solitary confinement for two months in Evin Prison. He was found guilty of “insulting the Prophet” on August 30.
Iran Blasts UN Secretary-General for “Insulting” Report on Human Rights
Senior judiciary official Mohammad Javad Larijani has continued the regime’s criticism of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon for an “insulting” report on human rights in Iran.
“One of the West’s tactics for inducing the wrong ideas against those countries that are not conforming to its interests is repeating the same lie in different shapes and by different means,” Larijani told Iran’s Human Rights Council in Tehran on Tuesday.
The official condemned Ban’s report for discussing censorship, violation of the rights of journalists and writers, and the filtering of the Internet.
On Saturday, the Supreme Leader’s senior aide Ali Akbar Velayati said Ban had prepared the report without any research, investigation, and discussion with Iranian officials: “This is an indication of standing against the Iranian government”.
And on Sunday, senior MP Mohammad Hassan Asafari claimed Ban was sympathizing with drug traffickers who are imprisoned and executed in Iran.