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The Latest from Iran (27 November): Trying to Escape the Oil Squeeze

See also Iran Opinion: "The Riskiest Job" --- A Tribute to Imprisoned Lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh
The Latest from Iran (26 November): Noting the Crackdown on Dissidents

2046 GMT: A Death in Detention. Iran Police Chief Esmail Ahmadi-Moqaddam has accepted partial responsibility for the death in detention of blogger Sattar Beheshti earlier this month.

Ahmadi Moghaddam, following up the claim of an MP on Monday, said investigations were examining why conditions in the detention centre in Robat Karim, southwest of Tehran, were "not favorable", why Beheshti was transferred from Evin Prison "during holidays", why the blogger was not allowed to take prescribed sedatives, and why he was kept at an "administrative section", where there were no monitoring cameras to record incidents.

However, Ahmadi Moghaddam insisted --- contrary to remarks from other Iranian officials --- that no traces of beating were seen on Beheshti's body. He maintained that the likely cause of death was "shock".

2019 GMT: Food Watch. The Government has announced the allocation of 1 trillion Rials ($about $82 million at official rate; $30 million at open-market rate) from the National Development Fund to the livestock and poultry industry.

The industry has been under sustained pressure because of currency devaluation, competition from imports, and higher costs, including those from the Government's subsidy cuts. During the summer, reports of shortages of poultry were widespread.

1449 GMT: Justice Watch. A British high court judge has blocked the extradition to the US of a former Iranian ambassador who was the target of an American sting operation in London.

Nosratollah Tajik, who headed Iran's mission in Jordan, was arrested in 2006 on charges of conspiring to export US defence night-vision weapons sights to Iran without a licence. The sting operation included agents of the US Department of Homeland Security, woho posed as arms dealers selling the night-vision goggles.

Lord Justice Moses ordered that Tajik should be discharged after more than six years of delays in the extradition process.

1412 GMT: Eleven members of the Baha’i faith have been sentenced by the Mashhad Revolutionary Court on charges of "propagating against the regime" have been sentenced to six months imprisonment each.

1405 GMT: All-Is-Well Alert. The Supreme Leader, addressing senior naval commanders today, was in a bullish mood:

“A look at the circumstances of the region and the world obviously indicates the upper hand of the Islamic Republic in these developments.

By comparing the Western [governments’] Middle East policy and the Islamic Republic’s Middle East policy, it can be clearly observed that the regional policy of the Islamic Republic has gotten close to its objectives

Press TV further explains, "The Leader went on to note that Iran’s achievements explain why the Islamic Republic is facing so much negative hype."

1125 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Activist Omid Dehdarzadeh was arrested on Sunday by cyber-police in Ahvaz in southern Iran.

Dehdarzadeh has been previously arrested put on trial for “acting against national security". He was given a six-month suspended sentence and also punished with 75 lashes for “insulting government officials”.

0755 GMT: Food Watch. A member of Parliament's Economy Commmission has said that food reserves will be increased from three months to nine months.

Amid reports of difficulties for Iran in importing basic commodities, President Ahmadinejad had called this summer for expansion of the reserves.

0750 GMT: Ahmadinejad Watch. Ali Saeedi, the Supreme Leader's representative to the Revolutionary Guards has declared that --- despite problems with the President --- "we do not regret voting for Ahmadinejad" in the disputed 2009 Presidential election.

0650 GMT: Trade Watch. Iranian businessmen report that the Chamber of Commerce's agreements with counterparts in Gulf States are suspended because of sanctions and the sharp fall in the value of the Iranian Rial.

0618 GMT: Domestic news is still limited because of the holidays for the holy month of Muharram, but one economic item caught the eye on Monday --- from Fars News Agency:

Iran plans to decrease its reliance on oil revenues in its next year state budget to one million barrels a day, a senior Iranian legislator announced, adding that the country will try to increase its income in the non-oil export sector, instead.

"Apparently, the government wants to decrease the 1392 (the next Iranian year starting on March 21) state budget's reliance on oil exports to one million barrels a day," member of the parliament's Budget Planning Commission Gholamreza Mesbahi Moqaddam told FNA on Monday. 

He said that the parliament is not concerned about deficiency in the 1392 state budget due to the western oil sanctions for the country sees crude embargos as an opportunity to reduce or even cut the country's reliance on oil exports. 

Many Iranian officials believe that the West's ban on Iranian oil supplies will help Iranian economy end its dependence on oil revenues. 

"The sanctions imposed on us have created an opportunity to prepare the ground for cutting the connection between the (country's) budget and oil (revenues)," Vice-Speaker of the Iranian Parliament Hassan Aboutorabi-Fard said at an economic conference here in Tehran in March. 

At the same time, Iran's First Vice-President Mohammad Reza Rahimi said that the country plans to boost its non-oil exports to $70bln in the next Iranian year. 

"The government targets $70 billion of non-oil exports in 1391 (March 20, 2012-March 20, 2013)," Rahimi said. 

The Government's optimism that it can live with a sharp reduction in oil revenue may be sorely tested. In 2011, Iran exported 2.2 million barrels per day, more than double than the revised amount for 2013/14, and a drop of more than 60% in oil sales would mean --- at 2011 prices, which were lower than those today --- a fall of more than $60 billion in income.

Meanwhile, development of the non-oil production sector has been limited by issues over government mismanagement and sanctions.

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