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Entries in Nuclear Proliferation (22)


Latest from Iran (30 October): Now to the Real Contest

NEW Video: Tonight “Allahu Akhbars” at Sharif University
More Time, Please: Ahmadinejad’s Legitimacy and Iran’s Nuclear Talks
Iran: Text of Ahmadinejad Speech in Mashaad (29 October)
Iran: The Mousavi-Karroubi Meeting
Iran: The Supreme Leader’s Threat — Strength or Weakness?
Video: The Announcements for the 13 Aban Marches

The Latest from Iran (29 October): Opposition Momentum?

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GHOOCHANI2000 GMT: We've posted video of tonight's protests at Sharif University in Tehran.

1840 GMT: Meanwhile, despite Larijani's harsh and perhaps troublesome intervention, the Government strategy --- as signalled by the President --- unfolds. The Islamic Republic News Agency is quoting an "unnamed source" that Iran has not given an "answer" to a specific deal on third-party enrichment. Instead, "The Islamic republic only announced its positive view to the negotiation and has said it is ready to have negotiations based on its technical and economic considerations regarding how to procure fuel for the Tehran reactor." (English summary in Agence France Presse article)

Translation? Iran is trying to take the proposal for shipment of 80 percent of stock off the table, beginning from scratch on the questions of timing and amounts to be delivered to Russia. That in effect undoes three months of talks on the US-led plan while maintaining Tehran's claim that it is still committed to discussions.

1835 GMT: Larijani the Hard-Liner. What is Iran's Speaker of the Parliament playing at?

Almost two weeks after the Sistan-Baluchestan bombing, Ali Larijani cast blame upon the United States:

Reliable evidence shows the US played a role in the recent move. The Iranian nation should correctly recognize the US for what it is. The United States and Israel are the main culprits of these events and known enemies of the Iranian nation.

Larijani has now publicly levelled these charges on at least three occasions, while no one in the Ahmadinejad Government --- as the President welcomes Western concessions towards Iran in nuclear talks --- has done so. So is the Speaker of the Parliament, as we speculated earlier this week, representing the Supreme Leader's specific disquiet over the handling of the bombing? Or is this a wider effort to undermine Ahmadinejad's manoeuvres in a continued "engagement" on the nuclear issue?

1820 GMT: The Price of Defiance. Yesterday we reported --- and readers added information --- on a mathematics student from Sharif University who challenged the Supreme Leader, during his Wednesday speech to "academic elites", with a series of questions.

Well, it is reported today by Sharif University students that their classmate, Mahmoud Vahidnia, was taken away on Thursday night by Revolutionary Guard agents for questioning. His family were told he would only be detained for an hour but have still not heard from him; they have been told by other students that he is fine but cannot talk. It is also claimed that the family has been warned not to speak about the case.

1800 GMT: There are some interesting points on Iran's uranium enrichment coming out of an article by Julian Borger of The Guardian, "The fading of an Iranian mirage". Borger's piece is useful primarily for his exposure of the US-led strategy behind the third-party enrichment deal, "[Iran]wants to hand over the uranium in batches as the fuel rods are delivered. In that scenario, Iran's stockpile of LEU – currently enough to make a bomb – is not reduced, even for a few months. There is no diplomatic dividend, in the form of reduced tensions and negotiating space."
The real meat for discussion about the Iranian programme are in the comments being made by readers about the uranium stockpile.

1425 GMT: And Now, Your Friday Prayer from Tehran, Courtesy of Ayatollah Emami-Kashani.

1. Foreigners Are Devious: "We must identify where the enemy seeks to penetrate the Islamic establishment and then counter it."

2. But Other Foreigners Think Iran's Science (and Nuclear Programme?) Is Fabulous. "We must realize that aside from enemy media outlets, the rest of the world supports the Islamic and scientific movements in Iran. When science is founded upon faith and Islam, no one will be able to stop it."

3. But Remember, Those First Foreigners Are Devious and Jealous. "History has shown that the Islamic civilization, which incorporates science, faith and effort, was taking over the world, when certain parties stepped in and laid claim to the achievements of Muslims. They proclaimed themselves as the owners of the world and enslaved Muslim countries."

4. So Don't Think of Criticising Us. "Criticism that is intended to help make progress is good, but views that are expressed to belittle [the] others are not acceptable in any way."

1405 GMT: Report that all the workers arrested last week in connection with a strike at an Ahwaz pipe factory have now been released.

1400 GMT: Tagheer, the website associated with Mehdi Karroubi, has published a series of photos of Etemade Melli editor-in-chief Mohammad Ghoochani (left), released on bail today after 131 days in detention (see 0945 GMT).

1310 GMT: Ayatollah Montazeri, in solidarity with detainees and their families, has declared that he will not be celebrating Imam Reza's birthday. (English summary on Facebook site associated with Mir Hossein Mousavi)

1300 GMT: Report that Iran's Prosecutor General has confirmed three death sentences previously announced for post-election detainees are final.

1050 GMT: Grand Ayatollah Bayat-Zanjani, a fervent critic of the Government during the post-election crisis, has suffered a heart attack and is in intensive care in a hospital in Qom.

0945 GMT: Islamic Labour News Agency is confirming the report that Mohammad Ghoochani, the editor-in-chief of Etemade Melli newspaper, has been released on $100,000 bail after 131 days in detention.

An EA source adds that Ghoochani was freed at midnight, with no notice to his family, and took a taxi home.

0700 GMT: A slow start to the day so we've focused on an analysis of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's political move yesterday, using the nuclear issue to shore up and boost his Presidential legitimacy. We've also posted an extract from his speech in Mashaad.

The quick summary? While the Western media worries over the nuclear question, the sharper-eyed should look towards the bigger issue and bigger battle: Ahmadinejad's quest to establish his authority both against the opposition and against challengers within the regime. We now have the English translation of this week's meeting between Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, setting up their next moves, and the videos being circulated for the 13 Aban demonstrations.

It is five days to 13 Aban (4 November).

More Time, Please: Ahmadinejad's Legitimacy and Iran's Nuclear Talks

Iran: Text of Ahmadinejad Speech in Mashaad (29 October)
Latest from Iran (30 October): Now to the Real Contest
The Latest from Iran (29 October): Opposition Momentum?

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AHMADINEJAD7Here is what President Ahmadinejad said in a nationally-televised speech from Mashaad on Thursday.

Iran is strong. I am strong. Iran is strong because I am strong.

While the President covered a range of domestic and international issues, the passage on the talks on Iran's nuclear programme will receive the most attention today. As The Daily Telegraph of London declares, "Iran claims victory in nuclear battle with the West".

Unfortunately most coverage in the West will miss the significance of the speech. The New York Times, relying on usual on unnamed "diplomats in Europe and unnamed officials", is already proclaiming, "Iran Rejects Deal to Ship Out Uranium, Officials Report", a journalistic approach echoed by the Los Angeles Times.

That is untrue, at least according to both the Iranian Government and the International Atomic Energy Agency: Tehran's reply accepts the "framework" but raises issues over timing and amount of uranium stock to be delivered to Russia for reprocessing. More importantly, it shoves aside Ahmadinejad's presentation:
I don’t want to repeat history for you but can you remember where we were a few years ago? Back then, they shouted at us, issued resolutions against us, waged psychological warfare against us and issued sanctions against us. They told us that we should completely give up our nuclear program. Where are we today? Today, they pursue nuclear cooperation with the Iranian nation.

There were days when they said that we should not have the technology at all, but today they say: let us cooperate. Iran’s position in nuclear industry is well-established. Today, Iran’s nuclear activities are considered to be a normal and obvious procedure and an absolute right of the Iranian nation.

That is not a rejection of discussions with the "West"; it is an embrace of them. But it is an embrace based on the premise that the US and other countries have knocked at Tehran's door, gone down on bended knee, and asked forgiveness. Iran is no longer an international outsider; it is an accepted nuclear power.

Iranian state media is running quickly with this line. Press TV, for example, is featuring, "Israel worried by IAEA draft accord on Iran", noting, "Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak says a draft accord presented by the IAEA would lead to recognition of Iran's nuclear enrichment program."

This is only part of the story, however. Let's get personal: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is fighting for his authority, not only against the Green opposition but against those within the establishment who object to his high-profile assertion of power. Remember how, only a few days ago, the stories were of Parliamentary leaders like Ali Larijani trashing the nuclear deal and of indications that the Supreme Leader was stepping in both to cast a veto and to put Ahmadinejad in his place?

No sign of those nay-sayers yesterday. Instead this was Iran as the President and the President as Iran.

That's not to say that, for the sake of Ahmadinejad's legitimacy and Iran's international position, Tehran will soon accept the US-led plan for third-party enrichment. To the contrary, the Iranians have serious objections to the details. The most straightforward is that the 80 percent of uranium stock to be shipped to Russia is far more than is necessary to keep Iran's medical research reactor --- the catalyst for this proposal in June --- operating for the rest of its lifespan. So, in Tehran's eyes, the current document is intended as much to keep most of its uranium "hostage" as it is to provide a stable supply for Iran's civilian needs.

And, given Ahmadinejad's position, the political advantages of spinning out the talks are there to be grasped. If there are alterations in the plan to reduce the amount shipped below 80 percent and to send it out in stages rather than in one delivery, these will be concession to Iran's and the President's strength. If the "West" walks away from the table, this will be an indication of their continuing deceptions and mistakes --- despite their apparent request for forgiveness from Tehran --- and Iran will be in the right as it maintains nuclear sovereignty.

Of course, there will be pressure in the US Congress for sanctions (the House of Representatives, despite the ongoing talks, has already passed a measure for tougher economic restrictions). Those, however, are President Obama's worry, as Russia and China are unlikely to give any support for multilateral steps.

So give Ahmadinejad credit for a political victory in Mashaad yesterday. But think of that victory as only a preliminary skirmish on an outside battlefield.

For the next time Ahmadinejad is due in Mashaad is on 13 Aban (4 November).

Iran: Text of Ahmadinejad Speech in Mashaad (29 October)

More Time, Please: Ahmadinejad’s Legitimacy and Iran’s Nuclear Talks
Latest from Iran (30 October): Now to the Real Contest
The Latest from Iran (29 October): Ahmadinejad Tries to Claim Legitimacy

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IRAN NUKESFrom the US Government's Open Source Center:

Islamic Republic of Iran News Network Television (IRINN)
Thursday, October 29, 2009

....I would like to make a brief comment about the American government and
Iran's nuclear issue....

The American government has said (crowd interrupt, chants of slogan: Death
to America). Well done to the brave and wise people of Iran and you dear ones.

In an opinion poll which they published, they announced that more than 80
per cent of Iranian people did not trust America's promises and treated the American government's actions with doubt. (Crowd chants)

Allow me to continue. I would like to say just one sentence to the American government. You (the US government) said that you wanted change, that you wanted to change the image of America and that you want to serve the American national interests. I have a piece of advice for you. You should change your main policies in the Middle East. The change should be implemented here.

I am giving you a friendly piece of advice: you should choose between protecting your own honor and interest, and protecting the ill-omened Zionist regime. The two cannot come together. (Crowd chants: God is great)

The Iranian nation and other nations will judge your slogan of change in Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon. We would like you to change your ways. This is to your benefit and to the benefit of the world. However, rest assured that it will be impossible for you to continue the policies of the past and yet maintain your honor, national interest and image. You should choose one of the two.

My second point concerns the nuclear issue. My dear ones, we have reached a very important juncture today. I don't want to repeat history for you but can you remember where we were a few years ago? Back then, they shouted at us, issued resolutions against us, waged psychological warfare against us and issued sanctions against us. They told us that we should completely give up our nuclear program.

Where are we today? Today, they pursue nuclear cooperation with the Iranian nation. (Crowd chants: Nuclear energy is our inalienable right) There were days when they said that we should not have the technology at all, but today they say: let us cooperate. Iran's position in nuclear industry is well-established. Today, Iran's nuclear activities are considered to be a normal and obvious procedure and an absolute right of the Iranian nation. (Crowd chants: God is great)

There was a time when they told us to come to the negotiating tables to discuss only the nuclear issue. We refused to do so. Today, they ask us to hold talks to increase cooperation at an international level. They tell us that we should sit together and find a solution to international problems. Look my dear ones, where we were back then and where we are now. They did not want the honor, grandeur and might of the Iranian nation to win. Today, with the grace of God, the grandeur and might of the Iranian nation has been established in the world. What is the reason? Why are we here? I am telling you that the first reason was your unique and historic steadfastness, as well as the steadfastness and strength of the supreme leader of the revolution against the bullying powers of the world. The
more important reason was the attention and kindness of our Lord of the Age, Imam Mehdi (12th Shi'i Imam) to us. (Crowd salute Imam Mehdi)

There are a few small points that should be said about our nuclear issue. Back then, they (the West) told us to close down everything; now they have expressed readiness to have cooperation over fuel supply, technological improvement, building power plants and nuclear reactors. They have reached a position of cooperation from their original position of confrontation. I want to make a few points addressed to both you and them. Be careful. We are at an important juncture which can be the start of a leap forward by the Iranian nation in the scientific and global fields.

I would first like to address them (the West) and tell them: You experienced confrontation with the Iranian nation for years. You imposed sanctions, issued resolutions and even issued military threats. You saw the result too.Today, you are saying that you want to change your actions. Very well, we welcome it. We shake any hand honest hand that is stretched towards us. However, if someone pursues plots and wants to be dishonest, the Iranian nation's response to him will be similar to the response we gave to Mr Bush and his predecessors. (Crowd chants: God is great, death to America)

Yet they were the ones who were losing out. The Iranian nation did not lose out. They (the West) faced problems, but the Iranian nation remained steadfast and, with the grace of God, overcame its main problems. The world, and some people inside the country, should know that this government will not retreat even one iota from Iran's absolute rights, as long as it enjoys the people's backing. (Crowd chants slogans, God is great)

Thankfully, today the conditions are ripe for nuclear cooperation at international levels. Supplying fuel for Tehran's reactor was an opportunity to gauge the honesty of certain individuals, governments and the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The IAEA is expected to try to play its real and legal role, which is to render nuclear cooperation, and help independent nations achieve nuclear technology and advance in the nuclear field. The IAEA should try to establish a healthy nuclear relationship between governments.

We welcome exchange of fuel, technical cooperation and construction of power plants and reactors. We are ready for cooperation. We expect the negotiating governments to remain committed to their previous obligations too. We have signed nuclear agreements for which we paid 30 years ago, and those projects remain on hold since the beginning of the revolution. Well if we are to have cooperation, these agreements should be delivered to the Iranian nation.

We have signed agreements on technical issues, reactors and power plants. If we are to cooperate with one another, then these agreements and previous arrangements should be implemented.

My dear ones, we are moving in the right direction. With the grace of God, we are moving toward summits of honor. We are in no way concerned about engaging in right and legal cooperation (with the West), as long as it protects the rights of the Iranian nation. We will see this through....

The Latest from Iran (22 October): Unsteady as She Goes

NEW Really?! Israel & Iran in Direct Talks on Nuclear Weapons
Iran’s Nukes: Text of IAEA Head El Baradei Statement (21 October)
The Latest from Iran (21 October): Room for a Challenge?

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IRAN GREEN2020 GMT: Rah-e-Sabz has named 18 of the people arrested this evening.

1915 GMT: Tonight's Arrests. A group had gathered at the house of Shahabbedin Tabatabei, a detained member of the Islamic Iran Participation Front to pray for his release. Security forces entered the home. They asked 4 everyone's cell phone and filmed them, handcuffed the men, and took away several people.

Among those detained were Tabatabei's wife, Mohammad-Reza Jalaiepour, who was detained earlier in the post-election crisis, Mehrak Mirabzadeh, Faezeh Abtahi, and Saeed Nourmohammadi. Mirabzadeh and Abtahi were later released.

1800 GMT: Iranian activists on Twitter are reporting that a number of high-ranking Islamic Iran Participant Front members have been arrested, and in some cases re-arrested after previous post-election detentions, this evening.

1655 GMT: The reformist Islamic Iran Participation Front of the Islamic Revolution has condemned the sentences against political activists. It has God’s promise that no Government or country can survive with such acts; as Prophet Mohammad said, “A state can survive with infidelity but not with tyranny and oppression."

The IIPF added that the coup forces have shown that their only use of religion is to justify despotic and authoritarian actions, issuing unjust sentences against some of the most loyal children of the revolution and the country. (English summary via Mousavi Facebook page)

1640 GMT: More than 2500 students at Sharif University have signed an open letter protesting disciplinary action against their classmates for political activity.

1630 GMT: Heads-Up Announcement. I just finished a 45-minute interview with Fintan Dunne of Sea of Green Radio on Afghanistan and Iran. The broadcast should be available this evening.

1530 GMT: Failure of Day. Earlier this week, we reported on a success for the Green Wave at the Iran Media Fair, when the "hard-line" Kayhan newspaper was forced to remove a guestbook and take down a flag after they were inscribed and decorated with pro-Mousavi slogans and green ribbons.

On the other side, a stand set up by the Ministry of Islamic Guidance to collect names for a complaint against Mousavi did not do very well. So poorly, in fact, that it was taken down.

1300 GMT: Fars Makes Up Clinton Quotes. I'm  not sure if this is another signal that Iran will sign the enrichment deal --- given the image of a US making concessions to a "peaceful" Tehran --- or really bad propaganda.

Fars News is currently leading with the story, "Clinton: Iran's nuclear program is peaceful", quoting her from an interview with The New York Times. Which would be fine, except it bears no resemblance to the truth. In the article in the Times, the summary of the Secretary of State's remarks --- actually made in a speech to the US Institute of Peace --- is "Iran and North Korea must take decisive action to curb their nuclear programs, and not just talk about doing so, if they expected to enjoy an easing of global pressures".

1240 GMT: Will Iran Sign the Uranium Enrichment Deal? Yes.

At least that's the clue offered by Ali Asghar Soltanieh, the Iranian Ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, "The Vienna talks are a new chapter in cooperation between Iran and the other participating states….We will be waiting to see whether they will stay true to their words and promises. The International Atomic Energy Agency will be a witness to the other states' behaviors when it comes to technical cooperation on using nuclear energy for peaceful purposes."

So there's Tehran's spin: We are the ones in control of this process, putting "the West" to the test on the nuclear issue.

You won't see this in Western media yet --- they're distracted for the moment by the tangential comments of Deputy Speaker of Parliament Mohammad Reza Bahonar that the deal "is not acceptable to us". Bahonar has no role in the nuclear negotiations; his words only come into play if the Parliament decides to resist the Government's engagement with Washington.

1145 GMT: Not Going to Let It Go. The "US linked to Jundallah bombing" narrative lives on. Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani has repeated his claims from Sunday that this is an American connection to the attack in southeastern Iran that killed at least 41 people: "Unfortunately, a trace of the US crimes can be seen in the latest events in our country. Although [the US] has denied any involvement in the terrorist attack, it is not enough and not unacceptable to us. They should explain why such things are taking place."

I have to say I'm surprised, given the context of this week's talks in Vienna on Iran's uranium enrichment. Perhaps Larijani is maintaining political pressure on Washington. But is that a prelude to walking away from the draft agreement? Is it to maintain a tough public stance, even as Iran accepts the arrangement?

Even more curious, and complicating the questions above, is that Larijani is the only front-line politician to complement the Revolutionary Guard's criticism of Washington. So is the Speaker speaking for the Ahmadinejad Government or cutting an independent path?

0825 GMT: The Shark Surfaces. Fararu News reports that Hashemi Rafsanjani has spoken with scholars at the Qom seminary.

He emphasized the principles of Islam and the Islamic Revolution to deal with the country's "many fundamental problems". The Iranian system was sound but, unfortunately, certain operations had raised public and international concerns. It was important, therefore, that all institutions and individuals respected and upheld the Constitution. And, to support that, there must be "free and uncensored information of events and issues", without lies and distortions.

Nothing unusual or dramatic in those general statements. What may be more significant, as we watch Qom's evolving interest in a resolution to post-election disputes, is the timing of Rafsanjani's encounter.

0600 GMT: In contrast to events in Vienna, where Tehran and the "West" neared an agreement on uranium enrichment, a quieter Wednesday in Iran. There were reports of scattered demonstrations, but rumours of a confrontation between President Ahmadinejad and students at Tehran University never turned into reality.

The quest by pro-Ahmadinejad members of Parliament to put pressure on Mir Hossein Mousavi through a formal complaint appeared to run aground in confusion. For the moment, the Revolutionary Guard continues to be preoccupied with the aftermath of the Sistan-Baluchestan bombing.

On the opposition side, movement is still restricted by the Government's formal and informal measure, but a drip-feed of news continues as the calendar moves towards 13 Aban (4 November). Mehdi Karroubi, meeting the members of the Defenders of Human Rights and the National Peace Council, strongly criticised the measures trying to cut off his communications with the people, such as the shutdown of his newspaper and official website, the arrest of his close allies, and the closure of his office. He assured the audience that he was ready for any further regime moves, e.g. that would be taken against him. The Government's ignorance of the rights of the people made the situation worse, and the Green movement would continue until those rights are reinstated. (English summary available via Radio Zamaneh)

The report of a forthcoming meeting between senior clerics and members of Parliament over the proposed National Election Committee promises another front in the challenge to the President and possibly the Supreme Leader. And reformists took heart from the announcement that former President Mohammad Khatami had won the inaugural Global Dialogue Prize, given for cultural and intercultural research in global communication and cooperation.

One item from the prisons: Mostafa Tajzadeh, the former deputy Minister of Interior, told his wife during a visit that he was unaware of the process of his Detained since June, he remained defiant: " Let [the regime] say whatever they want in an unchallenged environment and in our absence; there is no doubt that there will be an opportunity for the people to hear our side of the story! "

Really?! Israel & Iran in Direct Talks on Nuclear Weapons

Enemy Iran: The US-Israeli Military Drill
The Latest from Iran (22 October): Unsteady as She Goes

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UPDATE 1030 GMT: No, Not Us. Unsurprisingly, Iran has denied the reports that it was at the same table as Israeli representatives. Ali Shirzadia, the spokesman for Iran's atomic energy organisation, said, "This lie is a kind of psychological operation designed to affect the constant success of Iran's dynamic diplomacy in the Geneva and Vienna meetings,"

Yes, really.

The rumour was out there, but this morning it seems to be  reality. According to Ha'aretz:
A representative of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission and a senior Iranian official met last month to discuss the chances of declaring the Middle East a nuclear-free zone....This is the first direct meeting between official representatives of the two states since the fall of the Shah in 1979.

Meirav Zafary-Odiz, director of policy and arms control for the Israel Atomic Energy Commission, and Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran's ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), met several times over September 29 and 30 and, together with representatives of other countries, conversed, presented questions and gave replies.

To be precise the encounter, which took place at the Four Seasons Hotel in Cairo under the auspices of the International Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament, including representatives of the Arab League, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia, Turkey, Morocco, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia.

But to be more precise, for the sake of engagement, European and American officials were also at the discussions. The sharp-eyed reader will note that the talks came just before the 1 October meeting on Iran's nuclear programme in Geneva, the first time US and Iranian delegations had been in direct, open talks in decades.

Australian sources --- the ICNND is chaired by Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd --- leaked the story to the newspaper The Age. The Israeli Atomic Energy Commission confirmed the report.

Of course, both sides maintained their peaceful intentions during the talks. Zafary-Odiz, the director of policy and arms control for the Israel Atomic Energy Commission, set out her country's responsible approach while noting that four countries in the region (Iraq, Iran, Libya, and Syria) had broken their commitment to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. During the meetings, She said that Israel was willing, in principle, to discuss the Middle East as a nuclear-free zone,  but regional security must be strengthened, security arrangements must be agreed upon, and a peace agreement must be sealed before Israel would further discussions.

Soltanieh insisted that Tehran was not striving for nuclear armament and did not endanger Israel. He added that the Israel did not understand the Iranian mentality and ideology: Iran did not oppose or hate Jews, but was merely politically opposed to Zionism.

At one point Soltanieh "in an impassioned voice", asked his Israeli counterpart, "Do you or do you not have nuclear weapons?" According to Ha'aretz, "Zafary-Odiz smiled, but did not respond."