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IRAN

Geneva talks to iron out Iran nuclear details

Iran and world powers will meet in Geneva from Thursday to iron out remaining obstacles in implementing a historic nuclear deal struck in November, Iranian and EU officials said.

The two-day meeting will bring together deputy negotiators from Iran and the so-called P5+1 group of world powers, European Union foreign policy spokesman Michael Mann told AFP.
   
It was still not clear when the two sides' chief negotiators could meet, he added.
   
Iranian officials had also announced the meeting earlier Tuesday, with Tehran's foreign ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham telling reporters that the talks would focus on "one or two remaining issues pending a political decision" before the deal can be implemented.
   
Technical experts from Iran and the EU-chaired P5+1 — comprising the United States, China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany — held two sessions in Geneva in mid and late December as they seek to fine-tune a deal reached on November 24th after their foreign ministers rushed to the Swiss city for marathon talks.
   
Under the deal, Iran is to curb parts of its nuclear drive for six months in exchange for modest relief from international sanctions and a promise by Western powers not to impose new measures against the Iranian economy, which has been battered by the embargo.
 
In early December, experts also held four days of talks in Vienna — home of the International Atomic Energy Agency — but the Iranians walked out after Washington expanded its sanctions blacklist against Tehran.
   
Deputy foreign minister Abbas Araqchi is Iran's nuclear pointman, and is scheduled to meet in Geneva with his EU counterpart Helga Schmid, the official IRNA news agency reported.
   
World powers have spent a decade holding on-off talks with the Islamic republic over its controversial nuclear ambitions.
 
The talks, which hit a wall amid tensions between the West and hardline Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, gathered pace after the election of relative moderate Hassan Rouhani, who succeeded him in August.
   
Amid signs of a thaw with the international community, Rouhani pledged transparency on the nuclear programme and engagement with major powers to try to remove the sanctions and thereby improve life for Iranians.
   
The sides are considering January 20 to begin implementing the deal, which is meant to buy time for diplomacy to clinch a lasting agreement that would allay suspicions that Iran is covertly pursing a nuclear weapons capability.
   
Iran denies wanting nuclear weapons but many in the international community suspect otherwise, and neither Israel — widely considered to be the Middle East's sole if undeclared nuclear-armed state — nor Washington have ruled out military action.

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DIPLOMACY

Iran summons Swiss envoy over US arrest of journalist

Iran's foreign ministry on Tuesday summoned the Swiss ambassador to Tehran to demand the unconditional and immediate release of a state television journalist detained in the United States.

Iran summons Swiss envoy over US arrest of journalist

Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi said a note of complaint was issued to¬†the ambassador for Switzerland over the “inhuman and discriminatory” detention¬†of Iranian citizen and Press TV reporter Marzieh Hashemi.

The Swiss embassy in Tehran handles US interests in the Islamic republic after the two countries broke off relations following the 1979 Islamic revolution.

“Her immediate and unconditional release was demanded” at the meeting with the ambassador, Ghasemi added.

US-born Hashemi, who works for Iran's English-language Press TV, was arrested on arrival at St Louis Lambert International Airport on January 13th, according to family and friends cited by Press TV.

Hashemi, a Muslim convert who changed her name from Melanie Franklin, had reportedly been visiting her ill brother and other family members.

A US court on Friday confirmed the arrest, saying her testimony was required over an unspecified case but that she was not accused of a crime.

At a hearing in Washington, a judge ordered the partial unsealing of an order on Hashemi.

The court said Hashemi was arrested on “a material arrest warrant” and would be let go after she gave testimony to a grand jury investigating unspecified “violations of US criminal law”.

Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif on Thursday described the detention as a “political action” by the United States that “tramples on freedom of speech” and demanded she be set free.

Zarif said that since Hashemi was married to an Iranian she is considered as an Iranian national and “it is our duty to defend our citizens”.