Iran officials deny illegally acquiring materials for plutonium-producing reactor


Iranian officials on Tuesday denied reports that the Islamic Republic had been caught breaching sanctions to acquire materials for use at its Arak facility, a day after Foreign Policy released details of a confidential UN report that found Tehran to be illicitly obtaining the equipment. Foreign Policy cited sources who identified the U.S. as the country that had informed the UN Panel of Experts on Iran of the Tehran’s efforts to procure the materials. State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki on Monday told journalists that it was “not breaking news that we are concerned about Iran’s procurement activities.” The discovery in early 2013 that Iran had resumed progress on the Arak facility, which contains a heavy water production facility and the reactor, was described at the time as the Islamic republic’s “Plan B” for acquiring a nuclear weapon. Arak has been a top issue in negotiations between Iran and the P5+1, with Iran only agreeing to minimal, reversible modifications that would see the reactor produce less plutonium. Secretary of State John Kerry, speaking at a conference in Washington on Sunday, predicted an agreement with Iran over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear weapons program in “three, four months, and hopefully even sooner if that is possible.” Kerry’s estimate was met with skepticism by the Washington Post’s editorial board on Monday, which called Kerry’s comment “jarring” in light of the months-long detention of the Post’s Tehran correspondent Jason Rezaian. The editorial board flatly stated, “If Iranian officials are unresponsive in the case of Mr. Rezaian, how can they be expected to deliver on commitments they make with respect to the nuclear program?”


Two Israeli films made the shortlist for Best Short Film at the upcoming 87th Academy Awards (Oscars). Final Oscar nominations (in all categories) will be announced on January 15, 2015. The 40-minute Aya tells the story of a woman who picks up a complete stranger — a Danish music researcher visiting Israel as a judge for the Rubinstein Piano Competition — at the airport and mischievously sets off with him for his destination. The film is by Mihal Brezis and Oded Binnun, and stars Sarah Adler and Ulrich Thomsen. Aya set a precedent in Israeli cinema as the first short film released as a standalone in theatrical screenings. “The culmination of Aya is one of the most beautiful and intimate moments ever seen in an Israeli film in recent years. The film may only run 40 minutes, yet it is far richer and more fascinating than many films running twice as long,” writes Ishay Kitchles in Israel Today. The writer-and-director team of Tal Granit and Sharon Maymon saw their short film Summer Vacation also get the nod for one of the 10 finalists in the Best Short Film category. The 22-minute, Sundance Film Festival selection tells of a family on vacation at a beautiful beach. The catch: The father/husband just wants to get out of there. The film stars Yiftach Klein, Oded Leopold, and Hilla Vidor. The 87th Academy Awards ceremony will be held on February 22, 2015. (via Israel21c)

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