Senior cleric backs Iran's nuclear talks team

TEHRAN, Iran – One of Iran’s most senior clerics has publicly backed the government of President Hassan Rouhani ahead of three days of talks in Vienna over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program.

Ayatollah Mohammad Reza Mahdavi Kani, chief of Iran’s Assembly of Experts (which elects and supervises the country’s Supreme Leader), said on Tuesday that the Rouhani government would “not go beyond red lines” in negotiations with the P5+1 countries (United States, Russia, China, United Kingdom, France + Germany).

“Government officials and negotiation teams have said before that they will adhere to procedures in negotiations, will protect the rights of the Iranian people and will not go beyond red lines”, Ayatollah Mahdavi Kani said during the opening ceremony of the 15th meeting of the Assembly of Experts.

An interim agreement between Iran and the P5+1 countries was signed in November 2013 in Geneva; this consisted of a short-term freeze of portions of Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for a relaxation of economic sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

Technical experts from Iran and the P5+1 group are to meet in Vienna on March 5-7. EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Catherine Ashton is to be in Tehran on March 9-10 ahead of a full round of international negotiations later this month.

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