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The Latest from Iran (30 September): Rights First?

1600 GMT: Execution Watch. A diplomat tips off a change?

The Iranian Ambassador in Rome, Seyed Mohammad Ali Hossein, has told Italy's main news agency that Tehran is likely to abolish stoning very soon.

Hossein added that the majority of the members of Parliament favour abolition, saying, and "penal law is subject to continous updating required by a changing society".

Hossein emphasised that the possible abolition of has nothing to do "with political and media pressure from abroad".

0640 GMT: Currency Watch. Thomas Erdbrink of The Washington Post has just contacted us to say his article is now posted on the current situation over the Iranian toman.

Money exchangers are still waiting to see if Iran's Central Bank will sell any dollars. The move was reportedly going to be made to protect against a sudden drop in the value of the Iranian currency.

0630 GMT: Nuclear Delay. Iran is reportedly delaying the opening of its Bushehr nuclear plant, scheduled for October, for three months.

The reason is unknown, but Iranian authorities have denied it is connnected with the rumoured cyber-attack of the Stuxnet worm.

0400 GMT: Sanctions Watch. Press TV is also great emphasis on a statement by the Russian ambassador to the United Nations, Vitaly Churkin, that unilateral sanctions violate international law: "All members of the international community must act in solidarity and on the basis of mutual responsibility...."We must put an end to this practice that runs counter to international law and is negatively politically charged." 

Churkin said unilateral sanctions against Iran "undermine the very foundation of further joint efforts" to resolve the Islamic Republic's nuclear issue. 

0345 GMT: Have to admit that I was caught off-guard by yesterday's announcement by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Treasury Timothy Geithner specifically naming eight high-level Iranian officials as sanctions targets and --- more significantly --- doing so not because of Iran's nuclear programme but because of human rights violations.

While Clinton's rhetoric, in contrast to that of other American officials, had been increasingly strident over Iran's internal situation --- note her recent call for civil and religious leaders in Tehran to take charge and put Iran on the correct political course --- this had not gone as far as to put justice and human rights as the primary focus. Even her new Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iran, Philo Dibble, had put that approach behind the nuclear question.

We will have to see how this plays out in practice. At the same time that Clinton and Geithner made their statement, there are signs that some within the Obama Administration are pushing for renewed talks --- with the other "5+1" countries --- on uranium enrichment with the Iranians. 

So yesterday's announcement may just be a bit more pressure on leading Tehran officials to support President Ahmadinejad's desire for talks. Or it could be more.

The reaction from Press TV's English site is terse, naming four of the eight officials targeted by the US. It notes that they "will be barred from entering the United States and their possible assets will be blocked. American individuals and companies have also been prohibited from doing any business with the eight."

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