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The Latest from Iran (3 November): Will the Political Fighting Stop? (Probably Not.)

Sadegh Larijani, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Ali Larijani2135 GMT: Nuclear Watch. Earlier we noted the escalation of a statement by Mohammad-Hassan Asfari, a member of Parliament's National Security Committee, about a possible nuclear deal into a claim that Iran has unilaterally suspended enrichment of 20% uranium (see 1806 GMT).

Now an "informed source" has told Fars that the Islamic Republic is continuing the enrichment with "no changes".

2111 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Pedram Nasrollahi, a member of the Coordinating Committee to Help Form Workers’ Organizations, has been sentenced to 19 months in prison by an Appeals Court.

Nasrollahi was arrested by security forces on 8 March 2011 and detained for 48 days before he was released on bail. He was originally sentenced to three years in prison for his membership in the Coordinating Committee and contacts "with the opposition".

The Iranian Independent Workers’ Union issued a statement calling for Nasrollahi's release while declaring "that no worker should be detained or prosecuted on the basis of ridiculous accusations of participating in protests, strikes, gatherings, forming organizations, and endeavouring to achieve his or her human rights".

1806 GMT: Nuclear Watch. The signals continue in the Iranian press over a possible deal with the "West" on Iran's nuclear programme --- a member of Parliament's National Security Committee, Mohammad-Hassan Asfari, has told ISNA that Tehran could suspend enrichment of 20% uranium "in certain conditions", notably the lifting of sanctions.

That brief description fits the nine-step plan put forward since this summer by Iran's negotiators, both in public and in talks with Catherine Ashton, the lead official for the 5+1 Powers.

Some outlets are going farther, however, suggesting that the MP is pointing to a unilateral suspension by Tehran of the 20% enrichment.

1754 GMT: Oil Watch. Minister of Oil Rustam Qassemi has hinted once again that Tehran might cut oil exports in an effort to counter the pressure of international sanctions, “Lack of Iran’s oil in global markets can affect energy prices across the world and prepare the ground for the creation of a broad crisis in the West’s industrial economies."

Qassemi did not explain how the Islamic Republic would deal with the reduction in its revenues and he was less explicit than last week when he said Tehran would halt exports completely. He also said, “We do not seek such an incident at all.”

Iran's oil sales have fallen about 60% this year amid the sanctions, which have affected shipping and financial transactions.

1750 GMT: Nuclear Watch. Back from a weekend break to find a twist in Iran's push for a resumption of the nuclear discussions with the 5+1 Powers. Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said today, “In these talks, the Islamic Republic has acted transparently and besides tabling concrete proposals, it has even called for live broadcast of the negotiations."

0735 GMT: Sanctions Watch. Thomas Erdbrink of The New York Times offers a snapshot of the effects of international sanctions on health care, with shortages and rising prices for essential drugs:

Sitting on one of the many crowded benches in the waiting room of the International Red Crescent’s pharmacy in central Tehran, Ali, 26, was working his phone. After nearly six weeks of chasing down batches of Herceptin, an American-made cancer medicine, Ali, an engineer, was wearing out his welcome with friends and relatives in other Iranian cities, who had done all they could to rustle up the increasingly elusive drug.

At home his mother waited, bald and frail after chemotherapy for her breast cancer, but Herceptin had disappeared from pharmacies and hospitals in the capital.

“So you are telling me that a pharmacy in Qazvin has 20 batches left?” Ali asked, talking about a city two hours’ drive east of Tehran. “Please buy whatever you can get your hands on.”

But five minutes later bad news came: “Gone? O.K., thank you for your troubles. If you do find some please call me by the soonest.”

0645 GMT: Tough Talk Alert. The commander of Iran's navy, Admiral Habibollah Sayyari, has declared that the Islamic Republic now has "full self-sufficiency" on the waters and will "convert threats into opportunities".

0615 GMT: On Friday, the regime went through the ritual of speeches and rallies on the 33rd anniversary of the takeover of the US Embassy. Hojatoleslam Kazem Seddiqi declared in the Tehran Friday Prayer: "The first thing that our revolution did was to crush the prestige of the United States in the world and...nullified all the values...which the United States was propagating."

The head of the Basij, Mohammad Reza Naqdi, told the thousands who had gathered on the grounds of the former Embassy, "We will reward 10 kilograms of gold to any historian who can prove that there is one regime more criminal than the regime of the United States." He then rejected the stories of the regime's secret negotiations with US officials over Iran's nuclear programme with this interpretation of the economic situation in Iran and abroad:

How can one expect that establishing relations with the United States would improve the economic conditions when the economic plight of states which enjoy relations with the United States is deteriorating by the day and the United States itself has many debts? Therefore a question arises: How can economic relations improve by establishing relations with an impoverished state?

All of this, however, is likely to be a sideshow to the main political event of the week. On Wednesday, the Supreme Leader publicly intervened in the bitter fight between President Ahmadinejad and the head of judiciary, Sadegh Larijani, over Ahmadinejad's request to visit Evin Prison --- he told the leaders of the three branches of Government to stop bickering and tend to their responsibilities. 

Sadegh Larijani and his brother, Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani, each bowed to Ayatollah Khamenei on Thursday. Ahmadinejad waited until Friday, and the statement on his website, while professing loyalty to the Supreme Leader, was far from a promise to stop the fight:

I am convinced that you decisively guard the constitution, particularly the fundamental rights of the people, and safeguard the elevated position of the popularly elected president, the second highest official position in the country, and the institution executing the constitution. And you are opposed to any measure which weakens his sphere of competence and important responsibilities.

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