The Latest from Iran (28 April): Nuclear Step Forward, Nuclear Step Back

0627 GMT: Cartoon of the Day. For the second time in the last week, Fars, linked to the Revolutionary Guards, has used a cartoon to express worries over the economy — the question is posed, over price tags, “Are these fruits for sale or just to look at?”

0620 GMT: Threat of the Day. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the commander of the Aerospace Force of the Revolutionary Guards, has said Turkey should expect “deformed children and incurable diseases”as the result of NATO’s missile shield to be placed in the country.

Hajizadeh had warned last year that his country could target the relevant installations in Turkey if faced with a military attack, “We have prepared ourselves if any threat is staged against Iran. We will target NATO’s missile shield in Turkey and will then attack other targets.”

At that time, Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi dismissed the threats and reassured Turkey that they are not Iran’s official policy, according to reports in Turkish media.

0605 GMT: On a slow Friday in Iranian politics, the most notable development was Tehran’s step back from substantive talk of a deal — at this point — over its nuclear programme. A day after his statements at a press conference were headlined as the Islamic Republic’s “shift” towards an agreement, the Iranian Ambassador to Russia declared, via the State news agency IRNA, that the story had been exaggerated by the Bloomberg wire service.

Instead, Friday’s real “shift” came from the US, where unnamed Administration officials told the Los Angeles Times (see separate feature) that Washington could accept Iran’s enrichment of uranium to 5%, provided there were strict inspections and safeguards.

So will Iran take a real step forward and not step back? So far, the Islamic Republic is continuing with the general welcome to discussions, but with no specifics and with the riders that it is the “arrogant” US and European powers who have to meet Iran’s legitimate position.

There is one parallel development of note, however. Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran’s ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agenc, said Tehran and the IAEA will hold discussions in Vienna on 13-14 May “to devise a framework for answering questions about Iran’s nuclear energy program”.

Could the talks be over the details of the inspections and safeguards that would be part of the deal between the Islamic Republic and the 5+1 Powers, to be considered further in Baghdad on 23 May? No clue yet, merely Soltanieh’s assertion, “This decision once again proves Tehran’s resolve for cooperation with the IAEA, which also makes evident the baseless [nature] of the allegations against Iran and proves the civilian [nature] of all of the Islamic Republic’s nuclear activities.”

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