The news and editorials on the new rounds of US-Iran and IAEA-Iran talks which were held in Baghdad and Vienna respectively dominated the coverage in the local media. The conservative press warned against the “double-edged” sword of any agreements with US or IAEA for fear of loosing the country’s allies in the region and of abandoning Iran’s advancement in the nuclear field. The reformist press welcomed both sets of negotiations and called upon the government to help with Iraq’s security and to prevent imposition of new sanctions against the country over its nuclear program. Iran also denied published reports that it has offered Syria $1 billion financing to purchase arms from Russia and North Korea in return for Syria’s refusal to start any peace talks with Israel.
Iran Nuclear Program
· Iran and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) held a new round of talks in Vienna over Iran's nuclear program; the Iranian delegation was headed by deputy national security chief Javad Vaeidi and Iran's ambassador to IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh; the meeting was aimed at drawing up a plan to clarify ambiguities in program’s past and the scope and content of Iran’s uranium enrichment program; Soltanieh said that IAEA and Iranian experts would seek to put together a working framework of precise rules covering inspections of Iran's nuclear facilities; Iran and IAEA agreed to continue the next round of talks on 20 August in Tehran.
· Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana agreed to hold another meeting in the coming days; Solana said the meeting will be held to discuss Iran’s nuclear program and to take the matter forward; Solana briefed EU foreign ministers on the latest developments regarding Iran’s nuclear program; Larijani and Solana last met on 23 June in Lisbon.
· Iran's deputy foreign ministry Mehdi Safari accused Russia of playing politics in delaying the construction of Bushehr nuclear reactor plant; Safari said the Bushehr power plant was supposed to be finalized by September 2007, but for the past four months the Russians have started to bring various excuses and now they say they will not be able to honor the contract.
· New British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said there will soon be a third UN Security Council resolution against Iran; Brown warned Iranian leaders that the world fear the development of a nuclear weapons program in Iran; the French foreign ministry also called upon the UNSC to start consultations for a third resolution against Iran; a French foreign ministry spokesman said that the new resolution should be firm, and should harm Iran’s economy, its population and its global relations.
· Ahmad Avayi, a member of Majlis (Iranian parliament) National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, said Europeans will be the major losers in adopting sanctions against Iran; Avaii sated that UN sanctions can not change Tehran’s political attitude; he said previous UN resolutions were not been able to restrict Iran’s ability to acquire missile technology and to develop its military industry.
· The US and Iranian ambassadors to Baghdad held the second round of their meeting to discuss security issues in Iraq; Iranian ambassador to Iraq, Hassan Kazemi Qomi, said that Iraqis were victimized by terror and the presence of foreign forces on their territory; Iran, Iraq and the US, however, agreed to set up a security subcommittee to carry forward their talks on restoring stability in Iraq.
· Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said the US has always wanted to topple the Islamic Republic; Hosseini said the recent “confessions” by Iranian-Americans Haleh Esfandyari and Kian Tajbakhsh displayed the United States' long-term plans for changing the Iranian government.
· Iran’s foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki said that the US is in no shape to threaten Iranian nuclear facilities; Mottaki said that Iran’s new round of talks with the International Atomic Energy Agency is proof that Iran is after resolving the nuclear standoff with the West through negotiations and peaceful methods.
· Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said Iran uses all potentials and capabilities to release its five diplomatsdetained in Iraq by US forces; Hosseini said the issue was on the agenda of US-Iran talks in Baghdad.
Leading Domestic Storylines
· Iran’s interior minister Mostafa Purmohammadi asked Majlis, the Iranian parliament, to give the government enough time to resolve the problems arising from gasoline rationing in the country; the National Iranian Oil Refining and Distribution Company (NIORDC) reported that the gasoline consumption had a decreasing trend throughout the country; NIORDC spokesman said the average daily gasoline consumption in the country has reached 57.2 million liter a day, a rate equal to 2003 levels despite the fact that the number of cars has since doubled; Government spokesman Gholam Hossein Elham said that government does not plan to start selling gasoline at non-rationed market price in addition to low subsidize price that is heavily rationed; some Majlis deputies had called on the government to sell gasoline at market price outside the rationing system; the government also announced that all dilapidated cars will be removed from the streets by 2011 to help with gasoline consumption.
· Iranian government intensified its “social order” campaign; a Tehran police spokesman announced that people who wear short trousers, tight dresses above the knee, clothes with famous foreign labels, or those wearing their hair in Western styles will be “tackled with severity” ; the police spokesman added that outlets selling inappropriate clothes will be closed down; the names of those who have been given warnings or taken to police station will be published on the internet and re-offenders will not be treated with leniency, the police said.
· 12 criminals were executed at Tehran’s Evin prison; the footage of some of the condemned speaking minutes before their execution was broadcast by IRTV.
· 11 members of the Revolutionary Guards were killed in Iran’s Baluchistan province; a spokesman for Baluchistan governor said the attackers were local drug traffickers; the authorities discounted speculations that the attackers were member of the terrorist group Jundallah.
Regional and International Storylines
· Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini denied published reports that Iran has offered Syria $1 Billion to finance its arms purchases from Russia and North Korea in return for Syrian rejection of peace talks with Israel; Hosseini confirmed reports that during recent trip to Damascus by Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad the need for bolstering of economic and technical cooperation between Tehran and Damascus were discussed; during the visit, Ahmadinejad met with Syrian president Bashar Assad, Hizbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah and Hamas politburo chief Khaled Mishaal.
· Former British prime minister Tony Blair, who is now the Quartet's Middle East envoy, said during a meeting with Israeli Likud chief Binyamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem that the advancing peace process in the Middle East will create a coalition of moderate states in the region and will isolate the Islamic Republic of Iran.
· China North Industries Corporation (NORINCO) signed a “gigantic contract” with Iran to supply Iran’s subway trains; NORINCO will export subway trains worth $587 million; NORINCO said however that the mounting international dispute over Iran's nuclear program makes the contract “vulnerable to termination.”
· Tehran-based World Forum for Proximity Among Islamic Schools of Thought condemned a fatwa by Wahhabi muftis calling for destruction of Shia holy shrines in Iraq and Syria; the mufti of Saudi Arabia and other leading Wahhabi clerics endorsed the destruction of the shrines of Imam Hossein and Hazrat Abbas in Karbala, Iraq, and Hazrat Zeinab in Damascus, Syria.