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The Latest from Iran (24 May): Ahmadinejad's Son-in-Law v. Ahmadinejad's Advisors

2015 GMT: Human Rights Watch. Seyed Mohammad Marandi of Tehran University explains why Iranian officials are declaring that they will imposed sanctions on named US individuals, including former military commanders and Administration officials: "The United States and its allies, including certain EU members, are violating human rights more than any other country in the world."

2005 GMT: Election Watch. Minister of Interior Mostafa Mohammad Najjar has given an assurance that the Government will not interfere in the 2012 Parliamentary elections.

In recent weeks, conservative critics of the Government, including the head of the Motalafeh Party, Mohammad Nabi Habibi, have expressed concern about interference in the vote, and claims have circulated that Presidential Chief of Staff Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai would spend money, including Government funds, to sway support (see 1235 GMT).

1905 GMT: Sanctions Watch. The US Government has imposed sanctions on seven companies, wholly or partly based outside Iran, for shipping petroleum products to Tehran.

These companies are PCCI (Jersey/Iran), Royal Oyster Group (UAE), Speedy Ship (UAE/Iran), Tanker Pacific (Singapore), Ofer Brothers Group (Israel), Associated Shipbroking (Monaco), and Petróleos de Venezuela (Venezuela).

The State Department declared, "By imposing these sanctions, the [US] sends a stern and clear message to companies around the world: those who continue to irresponsibly support Iran's energy sector and help facilitate Iran’s efforts to evade U.S. sanctions will face serious consequences."

1510 GMT: A Fire for the President's Visit. MPs including Hamidreza Katouzian, the head of Parliament's Energy Commission, have blamed today's Abadan oil refinery fire on the Government, saying it set up the facility too quickly.

While supporting the regime line that there was no sabotage, the MPs declared that refinery officials had warned of the dangers of unfinished or inadequate construction.

President Ahmadinejad was at the refinerary, as the fire broke out, to open a new phase of the development.

1500 GMT: Human Rights Watch. Mehr has reveal the names of five of the 26 US officials to be sanctioned by the Iranian Parliament for human rights violations.

They are: William Rogers, U.S. navy officer and captain of USS Vincennes, which shot down an Iranian civilian airline in 1988; Jeffrey Harbeson, commandant of Joint Task Force Guantanamo; Paul Bremer, the head of the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq in 2003-4; Richard Perle, an American political and defence advisor in the Reagan and George W. Bush Administration; and General Tommy Franks, the commander of the US war on Iraq in 2003.

“A number of American officials have been directly involved in human rights violations in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Guantanamo detention centre and Abu Ghraib prison, and a number of others have been involved in the drug trade,” Kazem Jalali, a member of Parliament's National Security Commission, announced.

“The freezing of assets and prosecution in Iranian and international courts are among the measures considered against these individuals,” Jalali added.

1400 GMT: A Fire for the President's Visit. Mehr now reports that the death toll from this morning's Abadan refinery explosion is 4, although the Chief Executive Officer of the refinery is saying only one person was killed.

Officials are insisting the refinery will be repaired and operational within 15 days.

1235 GMT: Ahmadinejad Watch. It looks like Ayatollah Jannati, the head of the Guardian Council, has just launched another volley against the President's advisors.

Jannati, speaking about the 2012 Parliamentary elections, warned, "Some have abused their position of authority in a 'deviant current', resorting to illegitimate ways and distribution of money to achieve abuses of power."

Presidential Chief of Staff Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai has been accused of spending money, including Governmetn funds, to build up support for his allies in the Parliamentary elections and possibly his own campaign for President in 2013. The Guardian Council is the supervisory body of the electoral process.

1045 GMT: A Fire for the President's Visit. We have posted a separate entry summarising the latest information and questions from the Abadan oil refinery blaze this morning.

1030 GMT: Ahmadinejad Watch. In an address to Parliament this morning, Speaker Ali Larijani resumed battle with President Ahmadinejad, “Now that the Guardian Council has clarified the issue, the caretaker for Iran's Oil Ministry should be introduced as soon as possible.”

Last week, Ahmadinejad declared himself the caretaker Minister, bringing heated criticism and a Guardian Council ruling that the move was unconstitutional.

1000 GMT: Where's Mahmoud? As the fire at the Abadan oil refinery burned, President Ahmadinejad proceeded with his speech opening a new phase of the facility. His message, however, was to the US: "Anywhere there is a dictator, he is supported by you....[He is] your stooge."

Indeed, Ahmadinejad explained that the American system was now a dictatorship: “What is the difference between a country ruled by one or two [dictators] for thirty to forty years and a country dominated by two parties for many years?”

And Washington's plan? “It is the US scheme to pit regional nations and countries against each other and to wage a war between them.”

0730 GMT: A Fire for the President's Visit. Mehr now reports two people killed and 12 wounded in the Abadan oil refinery fire. Khabar Online says more than 30 are dead, wounded, or missing.

0720 GMT: All-is-Well Alert. Vice President Lotfollah Foruzandeh has re-assured that there is a "good understanding between the Government and Parliament" over President Ahmadinejad's proposed merger of Ministries, with the Supreme Leader and Guardian Council having the "final word".

There have been weeks of political conflict over Ahmadinejad's attempt to combine eight Ministries into four new units, including the declaration that he is the caretaker of Minister of Oil. Parliamentary leaders have criticised the failure to consult them, presenting legislation for approval, and the Guardian Council has ruled that Ahmadinejad's actions are without legal standing.

0715 GMT: Espionage Watch. Minister of Intelligence Heydar Moslehi, contradicting earlier reports, has said there are no "Iranian officials" among 30 people arrested this week for spying for the US.

Fars had claimed that "several heads of Government agencies" were amongst those detained for allegedlyn being part of an espionage ring supervised by CIA operatives working out of US Embassies in Malaysia, Turkey, and the UAE. But Moslehi said, "There are no major Iranian officials among the arrested ones. They were persons who travelled abroad back and forth for their scientific and scholastic activities. They were then spotted by the enemy as prey and the enemy laid out traps for them to achieve its goals."

0710 GMT: A Fire for the President's Visit. Mehr reports that one person has now died from the blaze at the Abadan oil refinery, as President Ahmadinejad opened a new phase of construction at the facility.

0615 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Vahid Mokhtari, one of 14 staff of a Baha'i university arrested on Sunday, has been released.

Mokhtari's home was raided as authorities cracked down on the Baha'i Institute of Higher Education (see Sunday's LiveBlog).

0610 GMT: A Fire for the President's Visit. Fars reports that a fire broke out at the Abadan oil refinery in southern Iran, as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was opening a new phase of construction at the facility.

Six people were injured. Ahmadinejad was not affected, proceeding with a speech on national television.

The website said a "technical difficulty" caused the blaze.

0550 GMT: The political conflict around the President has now reached the status of "normal" --- it is now rare to find a day without an attack on Ahmadinejad's camp --- but even so, Monday offered a most unusual development. 

In an interview with Fars, Mehdi Khorshidi, Ahmadinejad's son-in-law launched an assault on the "deviant group around the President, notably Vice President Hamid Baghaei and the Presidential Chief of Staff Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai. They were trying to eliminate Ahmadinejad's true confidantes, replacing them with their allies. They were using government funds to build their base of support. They were mis-using theology. They were even cavorting with actors and actresses, handing out money to them.

But, for all the drama, unanswered and important questions. Did Khorshidi come forward on his own initiative? Or did someone help him with his script?

Again, the prediction from a leading EA source. First, the Government's critics go after Baghaei, who has now been suspended from civil service for four years. Second, they pursue 1st Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi. Then they try to bring down Rahim-Mashai.

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