ANKARA (Reuters) - Iran has shut down a hardline conservative weekly for criticizing the government’s nuclear negotiations with six major powers aimed at ending a decade-old standoff, the Students News Agency ISNA reported on Monday.
The broad goal of the talks is to restrain Iran’s nuclear energy capacity to remove any concerns it could be put to developing bombs in return for the lifting of sanctions that have ravaged the Iranian economy.
The Noh-e Day weekly, run by hardline member of parliament Hamid Rassai, had repeatedly criticized pragmatist President Hassan Rouhani’s government for “making too many concessions” during the nuclear negotiations.
“Iran’s press watchdog has banned the Noh-e Day weekly for publishing articles that contradicted the country’s nuclear policy,” ISNA reported.
“Each step that (Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad) Zarif took during the walk destroyed 100 kilograms of (Iran’s) reserve of enriched uranium,” the weekly said in January with respect to Zarif’s lakeside promenade with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on the sidelines of the negotiations in Geneva.
That diplomatic stroll raised an outcry among Iranian hardliners deeply wary of Rouhani’s moves to thaw Iran’s long antagonistic relations with the West, and Zarif was summoned by hardline lawmakers to provide an explanation.
ISNA said Noh-e Day had also been accused of offending the late founder of Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeni.
The United states and its European allies have long suspected Iran of covertly trying to develop nuclear weapons know-how. Tehran insists its nuclear program is geared to production of non-fossil fuel and scientific research.
China’s foreign minister said during a trip to Tehran that a nuclear settlement would help it escape from sanctions and allow more efforts to be spent on economic development.
Negotiators failed to meet a self-imposed deadline in November to clinch a final agreement seen as crucial to reducing the risk of a wider Middle East war. They have set a new deadline of June 30.
Under a Nov. 24, 2013 preliminary accord with Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States, Iran halted its most sensitive nuclear activity and took other steps in exchange for some easing of economic sanctions.
Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Mark Heinrich