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Wednesday
Aug242011

The Latest from Iran (24 August): Oil and Gasoline --- It's All the Way You Look at It....

2030 GMT: Trouble on the Russian Front. Mahmoud Reza Sajjadi, Iran's ambassador in Russia, has said that Tehran has filed a complaint with the International Court of Justice against Russia for not delivering S-300 missiles ordered by Iran.

Sajjadi also criticised Russia's Gazprom Neft, the oil arm of state-owned Gazprom, for a delay in developing Iran's oil reserves. He said Gazprom Neft has delayed the development of the Azar field for nearly two years since signing a tentative agreement with the National Iranian Oil Company in November 2009 to jointly develop its resources.

"Big damage has been done by Russian oil companies to the Iranian people," Saijadi said through a translator at a news conference. "I have already told the Russian side about the danger of this approach."

1825 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Vahid Lalipour, husband of student activist Mahdieh Golroo, has been summoned and arrested to serve his one-year prison sentence in Evin Prison.

Lalipour was initially arrested on 2 December 2009 with Golroo at their home. He was jailed for three months in Evin.

1608 GMT: Forgive Us and Look to the Hereafter. Famous preacher Hojatoleslam Hossein Ansarian has apologised to the Iranian people: "Forgive us that we asked you to make a revolution. We did not want this misery and inflation. We made promises that we did not keep."

Ansarian concluded, "We can set our hope only on the Mahdi", the hidden Imam whose return is awaited.

1605 GMT: Kiss and Make Up. Minister of Intelligence Heydar Moslehi, whose attempted dismissal by President Ahmadinejad sparked a political furour this spring, does not seem to bear a grudge: he grades the Government's performance as an "A".

1600 GMT: Ayande addresses the new Minister of Oil, Rustam Qassemi, saying that President Ahmadinejad failed two promises: getting oil money to people's tables and fighting the "oil mafia". The newspaper notes $600 billion oil income during the past six years; however oil production has dropped from more than 4 million 3.2 million barrels per day while the number of oil companies tripled.

1555 GMT: Foreign Affairs (Libyan Front). Remember the staff at the Libyan Embassy in Tehran who were suddenly "on holiday" on Monday? They have now joined the insurgency, and the national flag of the Qaddafi era has been lowered at the Embassy.

1545 GMT: Death Threat Watch. Fatemeh Bodaghi, President Ahmadinejad's deputy for legal affairs, has said the Government will file a complaint against Mansour Arzi, the "praiser" who said he would pay anyone who killed Ahmadinejad's right-hand man Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai.

1225 GMT: Kalemeh claims that up to 35% of Qom dairy producers are on the verge of bankruptcy because of unpaid support funds to cover the effect of subsidy cuts. The site that workers have been unpaid for 11 months.

1215 GMT: Reformist Watch. Prominent reformist Mostafa Tajzadeh, communicating from prison, has distanced himself both from March's Parliamentary votes and from any deal with "moderate hardliners". Tajzadeh said "Free elections yes, show elections never," and said the project of "greenhouse (false) leftists" linked to the new Islamic Constancy Front has failed.

1210 GMT: Deviant Current Watch. The hardline website Borhan has attacked the Ahmadinejad camp, claiming that "deviation of economic struggle, weakening people's beliefs, and inciting them to political unrest" are cases of Government corruption.

1200 GMT: Justice Watch. Prominent attorney Mohammad Seifzadeh has written former President Mohammad Khatami to ask for the reformation of the judiciary in Iran. Claiming that the existing system violates legal rights, Seifzadeh called for the dissolution of Revolutionary and clerical courts.

Seifzadeh, a co-founder of the Center for Defenders of Human Rights, was sentenced in October 2010 to nine years in prison and banned from legal practice for 10 years.

1120 GMT: Army Does Politics. Gholamhossein Gheybpour, an Iranian military commander, has told Basij militia, "We should not allow irresponsible persons enter Parliament."

1110 GMT: Assurance of the Day. Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi, commenting on the situation in Somalia, "Nobody perishes of hunger in Iran."

1020 GMT: Justice Watch. The Guardian picks up on the story --- reported in EA yesterday --- of the "confession" of 26-year-old Majid Jamali-Fashi at his trial for the murder of physicist and university professor Masoud Alimohammadi.

The article adds the details, from Fars, that Jamali-Fashi said he was assigned to carry out five other "terrorist operations" after the assassination of Alimohammadi, reportedly connected to Iran's nuclear programme. The site also says Alimohammadi's family asked for the death penalty for the Jamali-Fashi.

Reuters' report on the case:

See also Iran Snapshot: Tehran's Relationship with Africa --- Scott Lucas with World Politics Review

0720 GMT: Justice Watch. Kalemeh reports that security forces raided a meeting at an iftar --- the breaking of the Ramadan fast --- at the home of activist Fakhrosaadat Mohtashamipour, claiming that even a private gathering needs a permit.

Mohtashamipour, the wife of leading reformist Mostafa Tajazadeh, was detained during a demonstration in March.

0645 GMT: In the Skies. Peyke Iran claims that President Ahmadinejad has ordered the cut-off of fuel in Iran to aircraft of the Dutch carrier KLM.

The European operations of Iran's national airline Iran Air have been hindered since last year by block on re-fuelling amidst international sanctions. Tehran has declared that it will take similar measures against European airlines.

0615 GMT: We begin with two very different stories about Iran's oil situation....

State outlets like IRNA and Press TV highlight a statement by  Abdolhossein Bayat, the managing director of the National Iranian Petrochemical Organization, that Iran's petrochemical production will reach 46 million tons in the current Iranian calendar year. He asserted that about 7.3 million tons of different petrochemical products, worth $5.3 billion, had been exported between March and August.

What is interesting is the spin that Bayat and Press TV put on the related matter of oil and gasoline production. The managing director offered the reassurance that "the country's petrochemical plants have stopped gasoline production", having been converted last year to supplement the domestic supply, but he then added that "the production of the material to increase the octane number of the gasoline is not halted". 

Press TV steps in at this point to reassure, "When the US sanctions stopped many companies from selling gasoline to the Islamic Republic in 2010, some petrochemical plants of the country started producing gasoline to increase the Iran's total production by 40%. The measure helped Iran to meet domestic demand and start exporting the product."

All good then, until we noticed this statement by Nasser Soudani, the Deputy Chairman of Parliament's Energy Commission: Iran is to "temporarily" import petrol to meet its daily consumption needs and compensate for the poor quality of its domestically produced fuel.

The MP, speaking to Mehr, gave substance to Bayat's cryptic comment on "increasing the octane number": "The domestically produced petrol due to its low octane [rating] lacks a desirable quality and has to be mixed" with imported fuel with a better quality. 

Soudani blamed a decreased in output on a 23 May at the southern Abadan refinery during a visit by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

He insisted that the import would "definitely be temporarily" and likely to come to an end by the end of the Iranian year next March.

All of this comes almost a year after Minister of Oil Masoud Mirkazemi announced self-sufficiency in gasoline with daily production of 66.5 million litres. 

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