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Entries in Catherine Ashton (75)


Iran Today: How To Use Nuclear Talks In An Election Campaign

Presidential candidate Saeed Jalili (right) after nuclear discussions with Catherine Ashton, the representative of the 5+1 Powers

See also Wednesday's Iran Today: Lines Drawn In Presidential Campaigns

The Guardian Council, the body vetting the almost 700 people who had registered as candidates for the Presidential election, is scheduled to make its decisions today. However, with up to 40 prominent politicians and public figures among the hopefuls, it is close to a certainty that the Council will request a five-day extension.

Yet even at this early stage, it appears that the final battle may be emerging: former President Hashemi Rafsanjani will take his challenge all the way to the run-off on 21 June.

And to stop him, the Supreme Leader and others within the system will turn to Saeed Jalili, the Secretary of the National Security Council.

Despite no previous electoral experience, Jalili has put together an impressive campaign --- including through social media --- to take attention from other conservatives and principlists, including the members of the Supreme Leader's 2+1 Committee.

An example of that campaigning acumen? Jalili, Iran's lead negotiator in nuclear talks with the 5+1 Powers, used Wednesday's discussions with the 5+1's Catherine Ashton --- scheduled well before the formal registration of candidates --- to highlight his diplomatic and political skills.

Presidential Election Watch: Rafsanjani Edition

The reformist Assembly of Combatant Clerics has unanimously endorsed former President Hashemi Rafsanjani for this year's election.

Presidential Election Watch: Rafsanjani Edition

Conservative website Entekhab notes that former President and Presidential candidate Hashemi Rafsanjani was a confidante of Ayatollah Khomeini, and that during his past presidency he had wanted to improve relations with the USA.

Entekhab notes that in the 2005 Presidential campaign, Rafsanjani declared that he was ready for dialog with America and "has made similar comments about negotiations with America".

Entekhab also noted that Rafsanjani's government had focussed on "rebuilding the economy".

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Iran Today: Regime Attacks Rafsanjani as "Leader of Sedition"

Election Watch: Teachers Urge Rafsanjani to Run.

An assembly of reformist-aligned teachers and researchers has issued a statement condemning recent “insults” of Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatami and urged the two former presidents to accept the invitation of the people and run for office in June’s election.

Economy Watch: Ahmadinejad Under Fire.

President Ahmadinejad has come under more criticism today, this time by Grand Ayatollah Musavi Aradabilli who told a meeting of labour leaders that if the government follows the same policies as the present one, the country’s economic condition will only worsen.

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Iran Live: Nuclear Talks Grind to a Halt --- What Next?

See also Iran Special: The Stalled Nuclear Talks --- Why Tehran Cannot Give Up Its Right to Enrichment
Saturday's Iran Live: Decoding the Signals from the Nuclear Talks

2055 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Blogger and poet Reza Akvanian has been arrested.

Akvanian, a writer for the blog “Salhaye Khoobe Zendegi (Life’s Good Years)", was also detained in February 2010 by agents from the Ministry of Intelligence and given a one-year prison sentence, with five years suspended, for “insulting the leader and the President” and “association with outsiders by sharing news reports".

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Iran Live: Decoding the Signals from the Nuclear Talks

Iran Snap Analysis: No Advance in the Nuclear Talks on Friday
Friday's Iran Live: Nuclear Talks Resume in Kazakhstan

1942 GMT: Nuclear Watch. The American attempt to put the spin on the outcome of the nuclear talks has now emerged.

A "senior U.S. official" told reporters that, despite the failure to make any advance, there was no breakdown in nuclear negotiations and that diplomacy would continue.

The official said Iran could be subjected to more economic sanctions in the future, as Western governments seek to step up pressure, but he also claimed that there were some positive signs in the two sets of Almaty discussions in February and April: "Our exchanges were more natural and free-flowing than they had been in the past talks."

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Iran Snap Analysis: No Advance in the Nuclear Talks on Friday

Catherine Ashton, the lead negotiator for the 5+1 Powers, and her Iranian counterpart Saeed Jalili

The US and European members of the 5+1 Powers want Iran to work with specifics of the 5+1 proposals, namely the arrangements for suspension of enrichment of 20% uranium. They were unable to get Tehran's negotiators to start from that point.

The Iranians fear that they will get little for agreement to that suspension, even on a six-month rather than permanent basis. So far the Western power shave offered no more than token relief of some sanctions, namely on gold and precious metals, and have not explicitly recognised Iran's right to enrich to 5%.

So Tehran's negotiators are looking for a declaration on principles --- for example, the right to enrich --- before taking on the specifics.

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Iran Feature: Talking Tough --- How the US and Tehran Mirror Each Other's Rhetoric

General Michael HaydenBoth sides believe that getting the other to make those concessions over the nuclear issue would be a major psychological blow --- perhaps even a defeat --- in the struggle for regional power. Both believe that such concessions --- Washington admitting Tehran's "right to enrich" or the polar opposite, Tehran giving up that --- would signal fundamental weakness in its rival.

At the level of this week's talks, those hopes and fears are being put diplomatically. Beyond the talks, in the chattering cauldron of Washington, some are blunter.

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Iran Live Coverage: Tehran's Positive Signals for Nuclear Talks

See also Iran Live Coverage: Seeking the "Unity" Candidate for the Presidency

1923 GMT: Nuclear Watch. Fars News, close to the Revolutionary Guards, has reported comments by Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, in Kazakhstan ahead of Friday's nuclear talks.

Speaking at a university in the Kazakh capital Almaty, Jalili said that the talks were a "test of America's behaviour" and that they would open with a discussion of Iran's right to enrichment.

The test would be "whether the US will accept or deny our natural right to enrich uranium, which is recognized by the NPT [Non-Proliferation Treaty", he said.

The Iranian nation expects that the US will change its behaviour and not just talk about doing so, Jalili said.

The Secretary of Iran's National Security Council answered a question put by a student, who asked about the impact of June's Iranian Presidential election on the nuclear issue.

"Today, there is a national consensus over defending the rights of the Iranian nation," he said, saying that all parts of the Iranian society were defending Iran's "inalienable" nuclear rights.

Jalili also commented on the situation in Syria, echoing the regime line that the Syrian people should be able to decide their fate in free elections.

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Iran Analysis: 7 Things We Know --- And Do Not Know --- About the Nuclear Talks

Catherine Ashton, lead negotiator for the 5+1 Powers, and Iranian counterpart Saeed Jalili


Whatever the questions that follow in the rest of this analysis, whatever the cautions, this is the "positive" development that Iran's chief negotiator Saeed Jalili highlighted and that Western media are emphasising.

I did not expect the 5+1 Powers and Iran to schedule another round of discussions before Tehran's Presidential elections in June. I did not expect enough of a shift by the US and European countries in their demands --- or, alternatively, unilateral concessions by Iran --- to make these more than "holding" talks to stave off consideration of a military option against the Islamic Republic.

To my surprise, there was enough movement to justify not only investment in technical talks in Istanbul on 17-18 March but also the declaration of a high-level gathering on 5 April.


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Iran Live Coverage: No News is Good or Bad News at the Nuclear Talks?

Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili speaks with Al Jazeera English

See also Iran Special: Taking Apart the "Iran's Plan B for a Nuclear Bomb" Scare Story

Iran Follow-Up Video: How Fars News Protected the Oscars from Michelle Obama's Shoulders
Tuesday's Iran Live Coverage: Today's Nuclear Talks in Kazakhstan

1948 GMT:Oil Watch. Turkey maintained its current import level of three cargoes of Iranian crude oil in February.

Turkey has been importing three Suezmax tankers cargoes a month of Iranian crude oil since September, half of what Ankara used to purchase from Iran.

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Iran Live Coverage: Today's Nuclear Talks in Kazakhstan

Catherine Ashton, lead nuclear negotiator for the 5+1 Powers, and Iranian counterpart Saeed Jalili today

See also Monday's Iran Live Coverage: Ahmadinejad's Advisor Mortazavi Faces Trial

2138 GMT: Sanctions Watch. Officials, showing corroborating documents, claim Iran is using old tankers --- saved from the scrapyard by foreign middlemen --- to ship oil to China and avoid Western sanctions.

Eight very large crude carriers (VLCCs), each of which can carry close to a day's worth of Tehran's exports, have loaded Iranian oil at sea.

The eight tankers, built up to 20 years ago, can carry about 16 million barrels of oil among them, shipping databases show.

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