The Latest from Iran (15 October): European Union Announces More Sanctions
Monday, October 15, 2012 at 14:39
Ben Offiler in Ali Akbar Salehi, Arsalan Fathipour, Canada, EA Iran, EA Live, European Union, Hamid Safdel, Lakhdar Brahimi, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Masoud Jazayeri, Mehdi Ghazanfari, Middle East and Iran, Naser Savadani, Syria, Terry Nelson. Dennis Pashe

See also Iran Feature: "Oil-Spill Sabotage To Block Strait of Hormuz" --- How Western Media Spreads a Scare Story
The Latest from Iran (14 October): Pretending All Is Well

2040 GMT: Open All Hours Watch. According to the opposition site Kalemeh, Tehran's Chief of Police has said that shopkeepers wishing to close for longer than the “established legal time” must obtain a permit.

Earlier this month many of the shops in the Tehran Bazaar closed amid a protest over the currency crisis.

2031 GMT: Ahmadinejad Watch. At least one notable MP is none too happy about the prospective interrogation of President Ahmadinejad --- Gholam Ali Haddad Adel, the head of the Principlist faction and a relative of the Supreme Leader, has said, “I don’t think questioning the President in the present circumstances is expedient....Unity and amity for solving the economic problems must be the priority of the Majlis and Government."

2025 GMT: Budget Watch. According to Fars, Parliament's Budget Committee has alleged that the Government withdrew $12 billion from foreign exchange reserves --- mostly revenues from oil sales --- to cover its budget deficit in 2010/11.

2020 GMT: Rafsanjani v. Ahmadinejad Watch. Hassan Rowhani, a leading member of the Expediency Council and ally of former President Hashemi Rafsanjani, has criticised the Government’s failure to support domestic industries, "Production will not be mended with slogans and headlines”.

Rowhani challenged the Government's use of funds from its subsidy cuts programme, "Part of the subsidies money was meant to be deposited to support industry, but what happened?”

Rowhani also had tough words for President Ahmadinejad over the currency and snapped, "Foreign policy needs knowledge and art and diplomacy is not a matter of taste and slogans."

2012 GMT: Elections Watch. Eight months before the ballot for the next President, the Supreme Leader has appealed for calm --- he said the US and Israel are the Greatest Satans, and not electoral rivals.

Ayatollah Khamenei also said elections were "healthy" but must be supervised. He asserted that results must be in favour of the Revolution and said he was certain that "people would confront incidents" as in 2009.

1644 GMT: Assurance of the Day. Mohammad Reza Naqdi, the commander of the Basij militia, has declared that the Iranian economy is "going to blossom at new heights", while Europe is "caught under an avalanche".

1638 GMT: Currency Watch. Baztab claims that the US dollar, when it is being traded, is being sold for 35000 Rials, a of the currency of about 5% since Sunday. The price of old gold coil is 14 million Rial, a slight rise in the price over the last 24 hours.

1635 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Negar Haeri, the daughter of political detainee Mashallah Haeri, has been arrested when she tried to contact her ill father in Rajai Shahr Prison.

1325 GMT: Sanctions Watch. The European Union has published the text of its decision for further sanctions on Iran:

The Council has agreed additional restrictive measures in the financial, trade, energy and transport sectors, as well as additional designations, notably of entities active in the oil and gas industry. In particular, the Council has agreed to prohibit all transactions between European and Iranian banks, unless authorised in advance under strict conditions with exemptions for humanitarian needs. In addition, the Council has decided to strengthen the restrictive measures against the Central Bank of Iran. Further export restrictions have been imposed, notably for graphite, metals, software for industrial processes, as well as measures relating to the ship building industry.

The EU framed the new measures as part of a dual-track strategy for both negotiations and pressure:

The restrictive measures agreed today are aimed at affecting Iran's nuclear programme and revenues of the Iranian regime used to fund the programme and are not aimed at the Iranian people. The Iranian regime itself can act responsibly and bring these sanctions to an end. As long as it does not do so, the Council remains determined to increase, in close coordination with international partners, pressure on Iran in the context of the dual track approach.

The Council reaffirms the longstanding commitment of the European Union to work for a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear issue in accordance with the dual track approach.

The Council reaffirms that the objective of the EU remains to achieve a comprehensive, negotiated, long-term settlement, which would build international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of the Iranian nuclear programme, while respecting Iran's legitimate rights to the peaceful uses of nuclear energy in conformity with the NPT [Non-Proliferation Treaty], and fully taking into account UN Security Council and IAEA Board of Governors' Resolutions.

1045 GMT: Nuclear Negotiations Watch. Both PressTV and Khabar Online have picked up on the story that EU Foreign Policy chief Catherine Ashton earlier today “expressed hope to make progress in negotiations with Iran.”

Similarly, Fars News has noted yesterday’s remarks from German Foreign Minister, Guido Westerwelle, that “there was still the opportunity for negotiations.”

These reports by Khabar and Fars echo last week's observation that Iranian media are not only aware of the European overtures, but are endorsing them.

0858 GMT: Eutelsat, one of the world’s leading satellite providers, has suspended 19 State TV channels via its Hot Bird satellite system, including Press TV, IRINN (Shabake Khabar), Jam-e Jam, and Al-Alam.

The Hot Bird system covers a number of service providers in Europe and Israel.

0848 GMT: Nuclear Watch. The European Union's foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, the lead negotiator for the 5+1 Powers, has indicated that discussions with Iran over its nuclear programme are likely to resume.

About about the possibility, Ashton said "Absolutely. There is room for negotiations...I do hope we will able to move forward soon with our discussions with Iran."

Ashton's comments bolster our analysis from last week, "A Diplomatic Dance Towards Renewed Nuclear Talks?", that European diplomats are holding out the prospect of talks after the US elections, even as the European Union imposes further sanctions on Tehran.

How Washington and Tehran respond to Ashton’s overture will be telling. Before the recent European signals, US officials were dismissing an Iranian nine-step plan linking suspension of enrichment of 20% uranium with a removal of sanctions. Meanwhile, Tehran officials, including Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast, have continued to extend the possibility of negotiations.

0743 GMT: Currency Watch. The head of Parliament’s Economy Committee, Arsalan Fathipour, announced on Saturday that "$5 billion in fake bills" was being distributed among the public.

Fathipour’s warning follows reports that the Central Bank has used five brokers, who have sent been arrested, to secretly sell $130 million to $150 million on the open market.

0737 GMT: Promise of the Day. Masoud Jazayeri, deputy head of the Revolutionary Guards, has denounced the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to the European Union and assured, "Soon there will be riots and street protests in London."

0732 GMT: Development Watch. Baztab claims that 72% of development projects promised by Ahmadinejad on his provincial tours "remain half-finished".

0723 GMT: Tough Talk Alert. As the European Union prepares to tighten sanctions, including a cut-off of imports of Iranian natural gas (see 0515 GMT), Naser Savadani of Parliament's Energy Committee says that the Majlis is considering a "gas boycott" of the EU.

0629 GMT: Religion Watch. Christian Solidarity Worldwide claims that seven Christians have been detained following a raid on a prayer meeting.

Mohabat News Agency also said that five Christian converts detained eight months ago, following a raid on a house church in Shiraz have been informed they will face trial on 15 October. They are charged with "creating illegal groups", "participating in a house church service", "propagation against the Islamic regime", and "defaming Islamic holy figures through Christian evangelising".

0625 GMT: Energy Watch. Reuters highlights another problem for Iran's economy, as the Islamic Republic faces the prospect of buying costly foreign gasoline while maintenance work is carried out on a big oil refinery, or the alternative of relying more heavily on poor-quality gasoline from converted petrochemical plants.

Iran can produce about 60 million litres a day of gasoline when all its refineries are fully operational, compared with daily consumption of around 65 million litres; however, the work that began last week at the country's second-largest refinery has reduced capacity by 7 million litres a day.

The Ministry of Oil has reassured that 8 million litres a day of new refinery capacity is due on line in about five weeks at the Shazand oil refinery.

0615 GMT: Human Rights Watch (Canadian Front). It has been 2 1/2 months since Ottawa closed its Embassy in Iran and expelled Iranian diplomats from Canada, but the Islamic Republic is not letting the issue go.

Iran continues to seek advantage with claimed revelations about Canada's human rights violations, including its treatment of its aboriginal peoples. Andy Radia writes for Yahoo! Canada:

In recent weeks, Press TV, Iran's state-run global television network, has spent an inordinate amount of time attacking the Canadian government's record on human rights.

With former Manitoba chief Terry Nelson now in Tehran, they seem to have stepped it up a notch. Nelson, and his small delegation, arrived in Tehran late last week for meetings with Iranian officials to discuss Canada's treatment of its First Nations people. On Sunday, Nelson and former Dakota Tipi First Nation chief Dennis Pashe were the station's special in-studio guests.

0609 GMT: Fighting at the Fair. Rooz Online details last week's incident when police scuffled with Ministry of Culture personnel, handcuffing and arresting some of them, at the Digital Media Fair.

The fight broke out when police objected to a Ministry exhibition setting out the dangers of cyber-space for Iranian youth.

0605 GMT: Currency Watch. Fars reports that foreign exchange traders are restricting sales of US dollars to a maximum of $200 per customer, at a rate of 33350 Rials to the dollar.

0555 GMT: Trade Watch. Despite US-led sanctions, American exports to Iran rose by nearly a third this year because of grain sales.

The sales rose to $199.5 million in the first eight months of 2012 from $150.8 million a year earlier. Almost $90 million of the exports were wheat and other grains --- in the 2011 period, the US exported no grains to Iran, though it sold $21 million of maize.

Elsewhere, medicinal and pharmaceutical products fell to $14.9 million from $26.7 million. Pulp and waste paper, a category that includes the raw material for diapers, sank to $17.4 million from $40.9 million. Sales of milk products including cream, butter and other fats and oils derived from dairy, increased to $20.3 million from $7.8 million.

0545 GMT: Economy Watch. Deputy Minister of Industry Hamid Safdel has said that Tehran will cut imports of non-essential goods. He urged Iranians to reduce their use of foreign-made cellphones and cars.

A rise in imports, couple with a fall in Iran's exports, has cut into the Islamic Republic's trade surplus. The Government has also been under pressure to limit the imports as Iranian domestic production declines amid sanctions and economic and currency problems.

Safdel said importers of goods in two non-essential categories will not be allowed foreign exchange --- discounted against the open-market rate --- in the Central Bank's "trade room". Goods affected include cigarette papers, wallpaper, cellphones, luggage, clothing. and cars.

However, there are no plans to raise import tariffs on luxury items, Safdel said. Instead, Minister of Industry Mehdi Ghazanfari urged Iranians to limit their use of such goods and turn to domestic manufacturers.

0515 GMT: Today European Union foreign ministers will announce more sanctions on Tehran, in which German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle declared is "a clear signal to Tehran...[that] it is time for a political solution".

Diplomatic sources have said the EU will put further restrictions on Iran's banks --- with all deals barred above a "relatively low" threshold --- trade, and gas exports, and agree for the first time to act against the telecommunications sector.

Europe's limited imports of Iranian gas will be prohibited, and an extra 30 companies will be put on a list of firms whose assets are frozen.

Meanwhile, the Islamic Republic prefers to highlight the Tehran visit of the United Nations-Arab League envoy on Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi. Iranian State media said  an "unofficial detailed proposal...aimed at solving the Syrian crisis" had been presented to Brahimi, and they featured his comments, in a press conference with Iran's Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi:

There are some ideas in your proposals which can help by adding to that forwarded by other nations who are also important with regards to the Syrian situation. We hope all these ideas gather into a project to put an end to the Syrian people's nightmare.

Brahimi later met with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose website put out these remarks by the President:

Fighting in Syria means the spread of insecurity in the whole region and efforts exerted to break up Syria will lead to decades of insecurity in the region due to the country's ethnic structure. The solution to improve the Syrian situation is for all parties to reach this conclusion that with calmness and security, the Syrian issue can be solved.

No one should seek to impose his opinion on others and the Syrian people in completely free elections should say their views and everyone should respect the Syrian people's choice.


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