Iran Moves Closer to "The Fire"

Iran insists its uranium enrichment program is just for peaceful purposes—and now it is poised to start making a lot more of it. Tehran plans on mounting as many as 3,132 new-generation, IR-2m centrifuges; the machines are capable of enriching uranium five times faster than its current equipment, reports the AP. Iran informed the International Atomic Energy Agency of its upgrade plans last week, and yesterday the IAEA informed its 35-nation board. Iran already has more than 10,000 centrifuges at its main enrichment plant in Natanz, 140 southeast of Tehran, but they are unable to enrich past 4%. Another facility in Fordo can enrich up to 20%; that material can be turned into weapons-grade uranium (levels of more than 90%) much more quickly.

Fire In Iran


(Reuters) – Iran has denied media reports of a major explosion at one of its most sensitive uranium enrichment sites, describing them as Western propaganda designed to influence upcoming nuclear negotiations.
Reuters has been unable to verify reports since Friday of an explosion early last week at the underground Fordow bunker, near the religious city of Qom, that some Israeli and Western media have said caused significant damage.
„The false news of an explosion at Fordow is Western propaganda ahead of nuclear negotiations to influence their process and outcome,“ state news agency IRNA quoted the deputy head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation, Saeed Shamseddin Bar Broudi, as saying late on Sunday.
Iran’s ISNA news agency quoted military commander Massoud Jazayeri as saying: „I deny an explosion at the Fordow site.“
In late 2011 the plant at Fordow began producing uranium enriched to 20 percent fissile purity, compared with the 3.5 percent level needed for nuclear energy plants. Several U.N. Security Council resolutions have ordered Iran to suspend all uranium enrichment.
Speculation of an explosion at Fordow followed an Iranian news agency report that global powers and Tehran could resume talks on Iran’s disputed nuclear program on Monday and Tuesday. The European Union, the lead negotiator on the nuclear talks, said there was no such agreement.
Diplomats in Vienna, where the United Nations‘ nuclear agency is based, said on Monday they had no knowledge of any incident at Fordow but were looking into the reports. One Western diplomat said he did not believe them to be correct.
The U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which regularly inspects Iranian nuclear sites including Fordow, had no immediate comment.
Iran has accused Israel and the United States of trying to sabotage its nuclear program, which the West suspects hides an attempt to develop atom bomb capability. The Islamic republic says its atomic program is entirely peaceful.
„BEHAVING LIKE CHILDREN“
Tehran has accused Israel and the United States of being behind cyber attacks on its nuclear program and the assassination of its nuclear scientists.
Washington has denied any role in the killings, while Israel has declined to comment. No government has taken responsibility for the Stuxnet computer virus that destroyed centrifuges at Iran’s Natanz uranium enrichment facility in 2010, but it has been widely reported to have been a U.S.-Israeli project.
Israel, believed to be the Middle East’s only nuclear-armed state, has hinted at possible military action against Iran if sanctions and diplomacy fail to resolve the decade-old dispute.
Israeli Civil Defence Minister Avi Dichter told Israel’s Army Radio he could not say anything about the reported Fordow blast „beyond what I heard in the media.“
He added: „Any explosion in Iran which does not harm people but, rather, harms assets, is a blessing.“
Western governments say the higher-grade enrichment at Fordow is a significant step towards weapons-grade material, even though it is below the 90 percent level required for nuclear bombs.
The Islamic state says it is producing 20 percent uranium to make fuel for a research reactor in Tehran that produces medical isotopes.
Wrangling over dates and location have delayed resumption of talks between global powers and Iran, but Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Monday both sides should „stop behaving like little children“ and start work.
Three rounds of talks last year between Iran and the six powers – Russia, the United States, China, Britain, France and Germany – produced no breakthrough, increasing speculation Israel could attack Iranian nuclear installations.

Pakistan a Dysfunctional State With Nuclear Bombs

Distracted by the violence in Mali and Algeria, no one seems to be paying adequate attention to the tragicomedy under way in Pakistan.
Events of the last week demonstrate that Pakistan is a failed state — but one with nuclear weapons. Where else could a fundamentalist Muslim cleric who lives in Canada draw tens of thousands of fans to a rally calling for dissolution of the government while speaking from inside a shipping container with a bulletproof window?
That’s just one in a litany of absurdities.
At the same time comes the latest round of unresolvable acrimony between President Asif Ali Zardari and the supreme court, which has been trying to bring him down for years.
Two years ago, the court ordered the prime minister of the time, Yousuf Raza Gilani, to open a corruption investigation against Zardari, as if Pakistanis didn’t already know that Zardari, like most every government official, was thoroughly corrupt.
The court ordered Gilani to ask Swiss officials for documentation of Zardari’s in-absentia conviction on money-laundering charges 10 years ago. Gilani refused, noting that the president is supposed to be immune from prosecution.
The court scoffed. One justice spat: “Obedience to the command of a court” is “not a game of chess or a game of hide-and-seek.” And soon after, the court forced Gilani to resign. Raja Pervez Ashraf, the information technology minister, took his place. Right away the court landed on him with the same request: Help us file corruption charges against Zardari; get those Swiss documents.
The new prime minister also resisted, and wouldn’t you know it: Right now the court is trying to forcing him out of office — charging him with corruption. All of this seems to have paralyzed an already ineffective, incompetent government.
A few days ago, an officer in the state anti-corruption agency who was investigating the allegations against Ashraf was found hanged in his barracks. Police called it a suicide, but the timing is awfully convenient.
At the same time, in northwestern Pakistan thousands of protesters shouting anti-government slogans put the bodies of 15 villagers on display, charging that security forces shot them dead in their homes.
The chief security agency, the shadowy Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, did not comment but did respond to a court inquiry into the fate of seven men arrested in 2007. A court ordered them released. But all seven men disappeared.
Finally an ISI lawyer acknowledged the lack of evidence against the men, but he explained that they were arrested “on moral grounds.”
Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry shot back that the ISI simply cannot detain suspects on “moral grounds.”
“Morally, they can put anyone behind bars, even me,” Chaudhry charged. “According to them, all the people are guilty.” But despite years of heinous abuses, neither the court nor anyone else in government ever tries to reign in the renegade spy agency.
Why should we care about any of this? After all, Pakistan is hardly the only failed state in the world. Think about Somalia, Sudan, Haiti, Zimbabwe. But have any of these other states received more than $12 billion in aid from Washington over the last decade, with an additional $688 million payment now before Congress, awaiting almost certain approval?
And do any of the other failed states — Afghanistan, Chad, Nigeria, Uganda — possess nuclear weapons? No. Pakistan is the only state that has bombs, along with an Islamic insurgency intent on toppling the ineffectual government. And don’t forget that senior leaders of al-Qaida live there, too, most of them in Pakistan’s eastern borderlands.
If the Taliban ever succeed in toppling the government, they would almost certainly seize the nukes, a terrifying prospect.
Right now, though, Taliban militants, responsible for manifest mayhem and thousands of deaths in recent times, appear to be sitting back and watching. Their goal is to destabilize the state, but the sitting government is doing the job for them.
Joel Brinkley is a professor of journalism at Stanford University and a former New York Times correspondent.

Pakistan is the Third Horn Daniel 8

 Pakistan has world’s fastest growing nuclear stockpile

Ashis Ray, TNN Jan 18, 2013, 05.46AM IST
LONDON: Pakistan has the fastest growing nuclear arsenal with around 115 warheads, MIT-educated Pakistani scientist Pervez Hoodbhoy says in a book Confronting the Bomb published by Oxford University Press, which is to be launched in London next week.
Hoodbhoy also maintains Pakistan has made „phenomenal progress in missile making“ and that over the next 5-10 years missiles will replace aircraft as far as its delivery of weapons infrastructure is concerned. Ghauri, of course, is virtually imported from North Korea with China’s assistance.

North Korea Prepares For "The Fire"

North Korea has announced it’s about to carry out a third nuclear test and more long-range rocket launches, which it says are designed to target the United States.
­“We are not disguising the fact that the various satellites and long-range rockets that we will fire and the high-level nuclear test we will carry out are aimed at the United States,“ North Korea’s National Defense Commission says.
Pyongyang now threatens to wage a “fully-fledged confrontation“ against the US for what they call continued hostility.
The declaration follows the UN Security Council’s condemnation of North Korea on Tuesday and expanded sanctions against the regime for launching a rocket in December. North Korea has always claimed the launch was a peaceful satellite mission, but the US and others say it was actually a test of long-range missile technology.
In the face of what it considers to be a US threat, North Korea “will take steps for physical counteraction to bolster the military capabilities for self-defense, including the nuclear deterrence, both qualitatively and quantitatively,“ the country’s Foreign Ministry warned in a statement.
Japan states North Korea does not yet have the technology to create compact nuclear warheads, but its missiles are already advanced enough to reach the US West Coast. The latest report published by Japanese observers, states the North Korean missile program has attained a new high and poses a grave threat.
The North was banned from developing missile and nuclear technology under sanctions dating from its 2006 and 2009 nuclear tests. First tests used plutonium, were detonated underground and had limited success. This time around, the international concern is that Pyongyang may use highly-enriched uranium and get better results.
North Korea does not give a time-frame of when they intend to undertake the threatened nuclear test.
The US has already called on the North to not carry out its third test.
We hope they don’t do it. We call on them not to do it,“ Glyn Davies, the top US envoy for North Korean diplomacy, said in the South Korean capital, Seoul.
There is no clear indication of an imminent nuclear test, observers say. However, satellite photos recently taken at North Korea’s underground nuclear test site in the far northeast showed continued activity that suggested a state of readiness even in winter.
North Korea has enough weapons-grade plutonium for about four to eight bombs, according to nuclear scientist Siegfried Hecker, who visited North Korea’s nuclear complex in 2010. In 2009, Pyongyang also declared that it would begin enriching uranium, which would give North Korea a second way to make atomic weapons.
The latest UN Security Council resolution demands North Korea abandon its nuclear weapons program in a „complete, verifiable and irreversible manner,“ as well as Pyongyang cease rocket launches. The North insists its rocket launches are purely peaceful.
The December 12 ‘satellite’ rocket launch has been celebrated as a great triumph in North Korea. The scientists involved have been treated like heroes ever since. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un mentioned the launch in his New Year’s Day speech laying out the country’s main policies and goals for the year. Banners hailing the event were posted on buildings across the capital.
The US, however, is not buying into the ‘satellite’ story, considering such launches covert tests of ballistic missile technology since satellite launches and long-range missile launches have similar firing mechanisms. As if to confirm that suspicion, North Korea showed off what appeared to be an intercontinental ballistic missile at a military parade last April.
On Thursday the United States denounced Pyongyang’s threat to conduct a nuclear weapons test as “needlessly provocative,” warning it would lead to further isolation and sanctions.
„Further provocations would only increase Pyongyang’s isolation and its continued focus on its nuclear and missile program is doing nothing to help the North Korean people,“ White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters.
Carney referenced a recently adopted UN Security Council resolution which expanded sanctions against North Korea and warned “significant action” would be taken in the event of a further launch or nuclear test.”
„These tightened sanctions will help impede the growth of weapons-of-mass-destruction programs in North Korean programs – in North Korea, rather – and the United States will be taking additional steps in that regard, but I have nothing more for you.“

The Iraqi Spring Is Coming

The leader of the Sadrist trend, Muqtada al-Sadr, warned that “the Iraqi Spring is coming” after Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki threatened to use force to disperse a protest along the international road in Anbar province ten days ago. So is the Iraqi Spring really coming? The simple answer is that the Iraqi Spring will be the Iranian Autumn.

Al-Maliki has not overcome the storm he is facing; rather it has transformed into a hurricane, and those that will fall this time are the Iranians, not the Iraqis. Tehran certainly would not be able to bear the fall of the criminal al-Assad regime and the uprooting of its ally al-Maliki in Iraq, for this would be a tough Iranian Autumn, especially with the Iranian presidential elections around the corner, not to mention other issues soon to come to a head such as the Iranian nuclear program. All this could push Iran to accelerate the fall of al-Maliki, before the fall of al-Assad, by replacing al-Maliki as Iraq’s Prime Minister with another, more acceptable figure. This is what many in Iraq must be alert to, especially some of the Sunnis there. They must distance themselves from such sectarianism and not raise pictures of Saddam Hussein in their protests. Just as al-Sadr warned them himself, and he is right, it is possible to turn the Iraqi storm into a hurricane to uproot al-Maliki, even before he uses the force he is threatening.
Al-Sadr has entered into the anti-Maliki demonstrations, and certainly the Kurds will follow, especially with al-Maliki’s continual threats towards them. Of course the Sadrists and the Kurds understand – along with other Iraqi political forces – the seriousness of what al-Maliki is doing in Iraq. These factors could all force Iran to take a step, along the lines of “jumping before you are pushed”, to replace al-Maliki with another figure capable of achieving the minimum level of Iraqi consensus, especially as al-Maliki has burned his bridges with the bulk of the Iraqi political trends. Iran, which is doing all it can today to prevent the inevitable fall of al-Assad, cannot afford the fall of another strategic ally, Iraq. This would be a difficult blow to take for the mullah’s regime in Iran, which, as noted above, has other important and decisive concerns, whether externally or internally.
The fall of al-Maliki, as threatened by al-Sadr through his claim that “the Iraqi Spring is coming”, means that Iran’s hands in the region will be cut off, and the magic would turn against the magician. Just as Iran thought there would be no Syria without al-Assad, Tehran could soon find itself without any state-level allies in the region, including Iraq and Syria.
Thus, as long as the active Iraqi parties mobilize in a coordinated manner, and with al-Maliki countering the demonstrations with force, and some of the Sunnis in Iraq realizing that the time now requires intelligence not emotion, especially when it comes to raising pictures of Saddam Hussein and other divisive acts, then we should not rule out the possibility that al-Maliki could fall at the hands of Iran, before the fall of the tyrant al-Assad. This would be in order to preserve the minimum of Iran’s interests in the region. Yet the fall of al-Maliki at the hands of the Iraqis, through the so-called “Iraqi Spring” that al-Sadr has warned of, will likely represent the Iranian Autumn, and this is what wise minds everywhere must encourage!
 

US To Attack Iran Nuclear Facilities

Israel and Western powers are planning a covert operation to blow up Iranian nuclear facilities, an Iranian spy within Israel’s intelligence agency, Mossad, has told the Islamic regime, according to a WND source.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is to hold a high-level meeting Tuesday to discuss strategies to deal with the threat. The meeting will include Heidar Moslehi, the minister of intelligence; Fereydoon Abbasi-Davani, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization; Ali Larijani, the head of parliament; and Sadegh Larijani, the head of the judiciary.

The source, who is in the office of the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, also revealed that Iran will launch a propaganda initiative against the United States over American help during the era of the last shah to set up Iran’s nuclear facilities. The aim is to deflect attention from Tehran’s current illicit nuclear program.

With the failure of talks between the International Atomic Energy Agency and Iran last week in Tehran over the regime’s refusal to allow inspections of the Parchin military site and its insistence on the continuation of uranium enrichment, Iran has now decided to pressure the U.S. by revealing documents from the time of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.
The source, who previously has provided valuable information about the regime, said documents of an accord between Iran and the U.S. will show that the shah paid Washington approximately $12 billion to help complete several projects, including eight nuclear power plants.
The agreement on the peaceful use of nuclear energy was engineered by Hushang Ansari, then Iran’s minister of economic affairs and finance, and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.
President Gerald Ford signed a directive in 1976 offering Iran technology for nuclear fuel as the shah then envisioned a time when oil reserves could dry up.
Read the inside story about Iran, in Reza Kahlili’s “A Time To Betray,” and also see the details about Iran, the nation that “bought the bomb,” in “Atomic Iran.
“Petroleum is a noble material, much too valuable to burn,” the shah said at the time. “We envision producing, as soon as possible, 23,000 megawatts of electricity using nuclear plants.”
According to the source, the regime, while claiming its nuclear program is peaceful, will argue that the only reason the U.S. is confronting Iran over its nuclear program now is because American companies are not involved today as they were before.
The propaganda initiative, which already has a thumbs-up from the Russians, is intended to change the subject from Iran’s covert activity in pursuit of  nuclear weapons to alleged American greed and financial profit, the source said.
Meanwhile, the regime’s Intelligence Ministry last Thursday received credible information from the spy in Mossad that Israel and certain Western countries have urgently drawn up plans for a covert operation to destroy Iran’s nuclear installations to avoid a large-scale war.
The spy provided information that a group of highly trained commandos, helped by opposition members inside Iran, will soon start their covert operation. The plan is to plant bombs to extensively damage the infrastructure of Iran’s installations, the source said.
Clare M. Lopez, a senior fellow at the Center for Security Policy in Washington, D.C., said that despite frequent public reassurances from U.S. leadership and nuclear experts that Iran is one year away from the “red line” beyond which an Iranian nuclear program is unstoppable, “behind the scenes the IAEA and Western powers clearly are deeply concerned.”
Lopez noted IAEA reporting indicates the Iranian regime has accelerated its nuclear weapons program – including enrichment activities, levels of enrichment, warhead development and trigger testing – in response to punishing international sanctions.
For that reason, she said, “global concern about the actual status of Iran’s nuclear weapons must in fact be much more serious than such leadership statements are letting on.”
Last August, explosives were used to disrupt power lines to the Fordo nuclear site to slow down uranium enrichment.
Sources in the Islamic regime previously have revealed exclusively to WND the existence of a secret nuclear site in Najaf Abad, a list of Iranian scientists working on the nuclear bomb, a secret uranium enrichment site in Khondab where Russian and North Korean scientists are helping with Iran’s nuclear bomb program, and the secret bio-weapons site in Marzanabad where, with the help of Russia, Iran has mastered production of eight microbial agents, arming its missiles with biological warheads.
Another secret site that will be revealed within days, exclusively by WND, houses Iranian scientists who, with Russian help, are working on uranium enrichment using laser technology.
Reza Kahlili is a pseudonym for a former CIA operative in Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and author of the award-winning book “A Time to Betray” (Simon & Schuster, 2010). He serves on the Task Force on National and Homeland Security and the advisory board of the Foundation for Democracy in Iran (FDI).
Read more at http://www.wnd.com/2013/01/covert-op-to-target-irans-nuclear-plants/#o2VTGXCQ0A0FoywO.99

US Opposes The Two Horns

As for who or what is behind the Shia genocide, the answer appears to be Saudi-backed, al-Qaeda-affiliated Wahhabi terrorist organizations, primarily the TTP, the SSP and the LeJ, whose activities are condoned by Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), and are sponsored by the U.S. and Saudi Arabia as a counterforce against the increasing Iranian/ Shia influence in the region.“   “Whoever helps in the killing of a believer even with a part of a word, he will meet Allah on the Day of Judgment with the following words written between his eyes: ‘Doomed from the mercy of Allah’,” said the Prophet of Islam (peace be upon him).

On Thursday 10 January 2013, a series of bomb blasts ripped through Quetta, Pakistan on Alamdar Road killing at least 105 persons and wounding hundreds more, most of them Shia Muslims. The al-Qaeda-linked extremist group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, whose stated goal is to transform Pakistan into a Sunni state, has claimed responsibility for the barbaric bombings. The attack has highlighted the ongoing cold-blooded campaign of Shia ethnic cleansing taking place in Pakistan, which has received sparse coverage in the Middle East and has been largely ignored by the Western media.
A brief survey of recent news headlines from Pakistan emphasizes the gruesome reality of this intentional extermination of Shia Muslims that could justifiably be termed genocide:
¬ Shia Muslims protest after bombings kill 120 in Pakistan
¬ 502 Shias killed last year, says MWM report
¬ Pakistan militants kill 41 in mass execution, attack on Shias
¬ 14 martyred in 10 days in targeted killing by TTP, SSP and LeJ terrorists across Pakistan
¬ Shia genocide in Pakistan claims 12 more lives, martyr’s son martyred, father and 2 sons martyred, 3 Shia green grocers martyred In Karachi, Quetta and Mach
¬ A Shia scholar, 2 businessman, police officer, 4 young men, in all 19 Shia men martyred in 4 days by the terrorists of TTP, SSP and LeJ across Pakistan
These headlines paint a pessimistic picture of Pakistan as a country whose internal stability situation is headed downward in a bloody spiral to barbarism, and whose security forces are impotent against the sinister syndicates executing the systematic slaughter of its Shia Muslim citizens. A number of questions arise: Who or what is behind this campaign of carnage which has claimed the lives of an estimated 20,000 Shia Muslims over the past few decades? Who are the TTP, the SSP and the LeJ, and who is backing them? And what role does the United States play in this escalating violence?
As for who or what is behind the Shia genocide, the answer appears to be Saudi-backed, al-Qaeda-affiliated Wahhabi terrorist organizations, primarily the TTP, the SSP and the LeJ, whose activities are condoned by Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), and are sponsored by the U.S. and Saudi Arabia as a counterforce against the increasing Iranian/ Shia influence in the region. The Economist reports, “The violence has been notable not just for its scale, but for what lies beneath it: a growing alliance between established anti-Shia militant groups and the Pakistani Taliban, Sunni extremists who have spun out of the army’s control, allied with Al-Qaeda, and are determined to attack the Pakistani state.”

Iran and Pakistan Will Soon Unite

Iran has strongly condemned recent bomb attacks in Pakistan in which more than 100 people, including Shia Muslims, were killed.

On Friday, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast also called for an international condemnation of the “criminal acts” and offered his sympathy to the families of the victims of the terrorist attacks.

He referred to the increased killing of Pakistani citizens in recent weeks as “targeted” attacks.

“Undoubtedly, the main objective of this organized and Zionist sedition is to fan the flames of sectarian strife among the Pakistani people, particularly between Shias and Sunnis in this country,” Mehmanparast said.

The Iranian official also urged all countries and international bodies to work towards the eradication of the “ominous phenomenon of terrorism.”

A total of 129 people were killed and 280 wounded in three bomb attacks across Pakistan on Thursday.

Ninety-two people were killed and 200 others wounded in a twin bombing that targeted Shia Muslims in a crowded billiards hall in the western city of Quetta. Earlier in the day, 12 security forces were also killed in a bomb explosion at a security check point in the city.

In another incident, a bomb detonated inside a mosque in the Swat Valley of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, northwest of Islamabad, leaving 25 Sunni Muslims dead and 80 others wounded.

Thousands of Pakistanis have lost their lives in bombings and other militant attacks since 2001, when Pakistan entered an alliance with the US in the so-called war against terrorism.

Since late 2009, there has been a surge in militant attacks in Pakistan. Thousands have been displaced by the wave of violence and militancy sweeping the country.

Hundreds of Shia Muslims were killed across Pakistan last year. The attacks targeted many doctors, engineers, high-ranking government officials, teachers, and politicians.

No Deal To Stop "The Fire"

Two days of talks between Iran and UN nuclear inspectors have failed to find a way to let investigations of alleged nuclear weapon research move forward.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said new talks were set for Feb. 12, but that the latest round in Tehran did not yield permission by Iran to visit a military base at Parchin – a top priority declared by inspectors – nor a work plan to resolve other long-

standing issues.

„We had two days of intensive discussions,“ IAEA Deputy Director General Herman Nackaerts said upon return to Vienna on Friday. „Differences remain, so we could not finalize the structured approach to resolve the outstanding issues regarding possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program.“

The setback comes after a year of effort to reach a framework deal between Iran and the IAEA. That process, however, has been conducted in the shadow of strategic nuclear talks between Iran and world powers known as the P5+1 (the US, Russia, China, Britain, France, and Germany). Iranian diplomats have stated that they will resolve issues with the IAEA in the context of a broader Iran-P5+1 nuclear deal, which is meant to lay down parameters for Iran’s nuclear work that ensure it can’t push for an atomic bomb.

Three rounds of those P5+1 talks failed last spring. After a half-year lull, a fourth round had been expected by the end of this month.

Yet lack of agreement on a date and venue – and reports of only modest revision of the past P5+1 offer already rejected by Tehran, which required Iran to make several strategic moves first, before receiving any significant sanctions relief – have made that next round uncertain.
Uncharacteristically quiet

Iranian media have kept uncharacteristically quiet about the IAEA talks, with little reaction on Friday, the weekend in Iran. Earlier in the week Iran reiterated numerous previous statements by Iran’s top religious authority, Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, which forbid the making, stockpiling or using of nuclear weapons as un-Islamic.

„There is nothing more important in defining the framework for our nuclear activities than the Leader’s fatwas,“ Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said on the eve of the IAEA meeting. „This fatwa is our operational instruction.“

Mr. Mehmanparast dismissed concerns about Parchin, saying activities at the military base „have nothing to do with nuclear activities.“ Inspectors have visited Parchin twice before, but now suspect that a different building in the sprawling complex may have been used in the past for implosion experiments that could apply to nuclear arms.

„Any issue that may exist can be overcome in meetings between representatives of Iran and the IAEA,“ Mehmanparast said, but after „Iran’s nuclear rights are fully recognized and a specific agreement is reached.“

After the previous visits to Parchin, Iran wants to work out an inspection arrangement that has a definite list of obligations by the Islamic Republic and an expected end date, so the process does not continue for years.

Iran also demands that it see evidence of past weapons-related work held by the IAEA, which Iran dismisses as forgeries from hostile intelligence agencies. Most of it has been provided by Israeli and US intelligence, but Iran has not been allowed to actually see it – a fact that has troubled IAEA relations with Iran for years, and which Mr. Nackaerts said before the Tehran meeting would be on the agenda.

Both Iran and the IAEA had noted progress at their last meeting in December, but the IAEA kept expectations low for the meeting this week.

„The outlook is not bright,“ IAEA chief Yukiya Amano said a week ago in Tokyo. „Talks with Iran don’t proceed in a linear way. It’s one step forward, two or three steps back…. So we can’t say we have an optimistic outlook.“