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The Latest from Iran (21 October): Back-Channel Talks with the US?

Iran Feature: Detained Reformist Leader Tajzadeh Writes the Supreme Leader
The Latest from Iran (20 October): 240 Days of House Arrest

1635 GMT: The Plot. It looks like Turkey is trying to broker a resolution between Tehran and Washington over the US allegations of an Iranian plot to kill the Saudi Ambassador to Washington....

Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkey's foreign minister, at a joint news conference with his visiting Iranian counterpart Ali Akbar Salehi, made a carefully-balanced statement: "We don't believe that Iran would be engaged in such an act, but America says they have evidence. Governments should be transparent on such issues. Those who make the claims should also be clear about their claims, and Iran should answer to that."

Davutoglu continued, "What needs to be done now is that all parties involved share what they have and clear the issue without giving way to a further increase in tensions. Turkey is ready to contribute if there is anything we can do to help relieve the tension."

Turkish media reported this week that the US sent official to Turkey to present evidence of the alleged plot. A US Embassy spokesman would not comment on the reports.

1630 GMT: Let's-Have-A-War Watch. Former Bush Administration official John Bolton uses the alleged Iranian plot to kill the Saudi Ambassador to whip up enthusiasm for war: "The unpleasant reality is that the only alternative to a nuclear Iran is to break Tehran's program through the targeted use of military force, either by Israel, the United States or both."

1535 GMT: Your Tehran Friday Prayer Update (Plot Edition). Ayatollah Mohammad Emami Kashani did not need much preparation for his turn at the podium today --- he repeated the regime's rhetoric of the week about the supposed Iranian plot to kill the Saudi Ambassador to the US: “The story that the United States has fabricated about us and the assassination scenario it has drafted is based on deceit and lies."

And the reason for these lies? Occupy Wall Street and the deepening economic crisis in the US.

1525 GMT: Question of Day. So what did the Supreme Leader's head of office, Mohammad Mohammadi Golpayegani, discuss on his visit to Saudi Arabia?

1515 GMT: Parliament v. President. Back from a travel to find Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani causing a bit of trouble during a trip to Kyrghyzstan --- he has said that no body has the right to dissolve Parliament and that the Government and ministers must answer questions.

0845 GMT: He's Not Our Friend. Iran's Foreign Ministry has welcomed the demise of former Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi: "The inevitable fate of all dictators and oppressors who do not respect the rights of their people is destruction."

Spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast extended Tehran's best wishes to the National Transitional Council and the Libyan nation, offering to help with reconstruction. At the same time, Mehmanparast called on NATO forces to withdraw from Libya as the Libyan people need to determine their own destiny in an atmosphere free from any foreign intervention.

0835 GMT: Bank Fraud Watch. Canadian authorities have opened an investigation of Mahmoud Reza Khavari, former head of Iran's Bank Melli, for suspected citizenship fraud.

Khavari, a Canadian citizen since 2005, resigned from Bank Melli last month amidst the $2.6 billion bank fraud and reportedly fled to Toronto, where he has a home worth almost $3 million.

0815 GMT: A late opening for us today, amidst the attention to Libya, but Thomas Erdbrink of The Washington Post gets us off to a provocative start:

A rapid succession of challenges directed at Iran in recent days has reignited a debate in Tehran over how to deal with the rest of the world.

Iran’s rulers, led by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, continue to refuse any negotiations in which they would have to compromise. But an influential faction is now pushing for back-channel talks with the United States as a step toward lowering the tensions raised by U.S. allegations about an Iranian assassination plot.

The support for Erdbrink's assertion is a bit thin: he relies on a call by former President Hashemi Rafsanjani for more “tact and management” in Iran’s foreign policy and the claim that "several other former powerful politicians", who are unnamed, and analysts "have called on Khamenei to take a more hands-on role that could include secret talks with the United States or a charm offensive aimed at Saudi Arabia".

Erdbrink is right, however, to note uncertainty amidst the Government: "On Monday morning, Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said Iran would investigate the U.S. plot claims, only to be corrected that evening by Ahmadinejad, who told al-Jazeera that there was no need for such an investigation."

And, perhaps more importantly, Erdbrink's narrative fits into a bigger story. In autumn 2009, Ahmadinejad's drive for an agreement with the US reached the point of the first face-to-face talks between American and Iranian officials, only for the President's domestic rivals to block any deal on Tehran's nuclear programme.

Ahmadinejad has not given up that aspiration. He tried to send his right-hand man, Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai, to Washington in February, only to be blocked by others in the Iranian establishment. And last month, during his trip to New York, the President repeatedly signalled that he was prepared to talk with the US about the nuclear issue, to the point of giving up Iran's enrichment of uranium to 20% if a supply from America could be assured.

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