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The Latest from Iran (20 December): Revolutionary Guards Decide Which Reformists Can Stand in Presidential Election

See also Iran Feature: Breakthrough in Nuclear Talks? No Way.
The Latest from Iran (19 December): "The Worst Economic Conditions"

2110 GMT: Human Rights Watch. The United Nations General Assembly has criticised Iran for human rights abuses by an 86-32 vote with 65 abstentions.

The resolution on Iran voiced "deep concern at serious ongoing and recurring human rights violations in the Islamic Republic of Iran relating to, inter alia, torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, including flogging and amputations".

1840 GMT: Nuclear Watch. Iranian State media continues to play up renewed discussions, headlining, "Russia Hopes Iran-P5+1 Talks to Be Held Next Month".

The website seizes on a matter-of-fact statement by a Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman, "Currently negotiations are under way with Tehran on the place and date. We hope that this work will be completed in the near future and such a meeting will take place in January of next year."

Press TV repeats the mantra:

Iran claims that as a signatory of the Non-Proliferation Treaty and a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency, it is free to develop nuclear technology for peaceful purposes but the United States, Israel and others have accused Iran of developing nuclear equipment for military purposes.

1520 GMT: President v. Parliament. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, criticising Parliament for blocking the next stage of his subsidy cuts, has insisted the second phase of the programme can be implemented.

Ahmadinejad spoke Wednesday on the second anniversary of the launch of the subsidy cuts.

“From the beginning… we could have implemented it 100% percent. In the remaining five to six months of the (last) year (of the presidential term), it is still possible to implement this plan fully without any problem being created,” Ahmadinejad stated.

The President continued, “The only way to circumvent the enemies’ sanctions is the full implementation of the subsidy reform plan, and it is possible to do this, provided that this train has only one driver because the economy cannot be directed from two sides."

1430 GMT: Energy Watch. Mehr reports that Iran's debts to Turkmenistan for imported gas have reached $1 billion.

International sanctions have hindered transfer of payments from Iran to Turkmenistan. In October, the problem led to a suspension of supplies from Tehran's Central Asian neighbour.

Iranian officials announced this week that negotiations between the officials of Iranian National Gas Company and Turkmenistan's state concern Turkmengaz had resolved the issue, with the Islamic Republic transferring gas from storage tanks in Qom to a refinery near the Caspian Sea for a "gas swap".

1300 GMT: Sanctions Watch. Reuters reports on Tehran's efforts to break the bonds of sanctions on diesel oil and gasoline with efforts to export more fuel oil, used for electricity generation and power for ships.


The website claims that, despite US and European measures to choke off shipping and insurance, Tehran has exported more fuel oil since July, when European Union sanctions came into effect.

The Islamic Republic sold an average 648,000 tonnes of fuel oil monthly from July to October, up from 636,000 tonnes for January to June, according to data from a company that tracks Iran's oil shipments.

Iran is reportedly using Gulf-based middle men to sell the fuel oil as a “special blend”, described as originating in Iraq. Quality certificates showed the density to be around 0.9655 kilogrammes per litre, suggesting that it was probably of Iranian origin, according to a suspicious oil trader.

The increase in fuel oil trade is only a small off-set for Iran's falling exports of higher-grade oil, however. The average of $410 million per month compares to $3.8 billion lost in monthly crude export revenues since July.

0935 GMT: Rafsanjani Watch. The office of former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani has sent a letter to Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani, demanding “an opportunity to reply” to “insults” against Rafsanjani in the Majlis.

The demand came as pro-Ahmadinejad MP Hamid Rasaei denounced Rafsanjani's son Mehdi Hashemi --- bailed from prison this week --- as the “mother of corruption” and “the master key of the seditions against the Supreme Leader". Rasaei claimed Hashemi was acting with the support of his father.

0835 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. The American Center for Law and Justice, a conservative Christian group, says Reverend Saeed Abedini, a 32-year-old US citizen and Christian convert, has been detained without charge in Evin Prison in Tehran.

Abedini was granted US citizenship in 2010 when he married his American wife. In the past the Iranian Government allowed to travel back and forth between the US and Iran, but he was reportedly seized during a trip to the Islamic Republic in August.

0715 GMT: All the President's Men. Presidential senior advisor Ali Akbar Javanfekr, who was detained this summer to serve a six-month sentence, will be released on Friday on a furlough from Evin Prison.

Javanfekr is serving time for a special edition of his Iran newspaper which was deemed to have insulted Islam. His case sparked high-level controversy when President Ahmadinejad sought permission to visit him in Evin Prison and was denied by the head of the judiciary, Sadegh Larijani.

0707 GMT: Ahmadinejad Watch. The President --- declaring that his Government is "the most impeccable in the history of this country and I can prove it” --- has lashed out at his critics for destroying the Iranian economy.

Ahmadinejad is especially angered that recent Parliamentary decisions have buried any second stage in his subsidy cuts programme, which was launched in December 2010 but has been criticised for mismanagement and for fuelling Iran's inflation.

0700 GMT:Yadollah Javani, the head of the Political Bureau of the Revolutionary Guards, has given the clearest signal yet concerning the reformists who will be allowed to participate in the 2013 Presidential election.

First, Javani set out those who must be excluded because they were seeking a "totally free election":

A group, which is among the main agents or behind-the-scenes elements of the sedition, believes one must participate in a totally free election. Their definition of such election is an election where [detained opposition leaders Mir Hossein] Mousavi and [Mehdi] Karrubi too can run and all political prisoners are freed...

It seems that the law and the judgment of such people are clear. These people must answer for the treason and crimes they have committed.

Then there are those who are not calling for the "totally free election" or the release of Mousavi and Karroubi from house arrest, but who must be banned because of past sins:

The second group is those who were among the reformists, but do not make conditions like the first group... Those members of this group who want to participate [in the presidential election] should not have a history of presence in the sedition. Those who started the sedition and mobilised people on the streets against the Islamic regime and harmed the national interests and national security have forever lost their qualifications for entering this arena.

Repenting too would not solve their problem. Repenting is a necessity for returning to the political arena, however, in order to enter the realm of competitive politics, other qualifications are needed which these people lack and can't achieve by repenting.

People like [former President Mohammad] Khatami belong to this group....

The sedition was an act of treason and a crime. The seditionists took steps in the direction of overthrowing the regime. Should someone who did not take a clear and decisive position at the time of the sedition be qualified for taking over the presidency?

So which reformists are left to stand? 

However, just because someone has a past record in this front [the reform movement] does not mean he is unqualified. The important thing is if they are loyal towards the Islamic regime and have a clear position against opposing groups, those engaged in overthrow of the regime or engaged in the sedition.

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