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Iran Live Coverage: "Supreme Leader Ordered House Arrests of Mousavi and Karroubi"

See also The Latest from Iran (25 December): Is the Currency Falling Again?

2117 GMT: Economy Watch. Radio Zamaneh summarises the gloomy report of Parliament's Research Center, surveying 98 economic organizations over the past year, that production has fallen 40% and employment is down 36%. The downturn has been fed by price rises of 87.9% for produced goods and 112.1% for primary materials.

The Center adds that in the past year, only 50 production facilities have been established while 566 have shut down.

Meanwhile, in an example of the problems with production, 300 workers at the Fajr Petrochemical factory in Mahshahr have gone on strike protesting the lack of job security.

1811 GMT: Rafsanjani Watch. More on the fight-back of the family of former President Hashemi Rafsanjani against high-profile criticism, notably from the pro-Ahmadinejad MP Hamid Rasaei (see 1528 GMT)....

In addition to having a response read out on the floor of Parliament, the children of Rafsanjani have filed a suit in Special Clergy Court against Rasaei.

The lawyer of the children said he expected the MP to be summoned within the next 10 days.

In a speech on state radio, Rasaei said Rafsanjani's son Mahdi Hashemi, free on bail after he was detained in September on charges of financial and electoral fraud, was a "corrupt monster who has always enjoyed ironclad immunity" because of his father and "octopus family".

Far from being deterred today, Rasaei has continued his attacks, accusing of lending support to election protests, notably through a call in a Tehran Friday Prayer of July 2009 --- the last the former President has given --- calling for the release of political prisoners.

The MP said Rafsanjani had tried to foment unrest by asking the Supreme Leader to ensure “open and free elections”.

1716 GMT: The House Arrests. Former President Mohammad Khatami has again called for the freeing of opposition leaders from 22 months of house arrests.

During a visit with the daughters of Zahra Rahnavard and her husband, 2009 Presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, Khatami said, "The tense political atmosphere of the country will be eased as soon as [they] and [fellow 2009 Presidential candidate] Mehdi Karroubi are released.”

1528 GMT: Rafsanjani Watch. The response of former President Rafsanjani to recent allegations by MPs --- notably pro-Ahmadinejad legislator Hamid Rasaei --- has been read on the floor of the Majlis.

Rasaei had criticised Rafsanjani's son Mehdi Hashemi, free on bail on charges of financial and electoral fraud, as the "mother of all corruption" and said Hashemi was protected by his father.

1418 GMT: The Battle Within. The Azerbaijani website Trend summarises the latest conflict in Iranian politics, sparking by President Ahmadinejad's posture against corruption in his nationally-televised interview last Saturday night....

Ahmadinejad, citing "domestic abuse" that had undermined his economic programme, claimed 60% of Iran's financial assets are in the hands of 300 people, who received large from banks and do not pay off their debts because they enjoy "hidden hands of support".

Iran Prosecutor General Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei replied on Tuesday that the judiciary has asked Ahmadinejad three times for the list of those who owe more than 10 billion rials (about $830,000 at official rates) to the banks, but the President has not replied.Ahmadinejad countered today, "I never received any request."

The amount of "bad" loans has increased from 75 trillion rials ($6.1 billion) in 2005 to 700 trillion rials (about $57 billion) today, according to the Centre for Combating Economic Corruption's latest report.

1118 GMT: In the Skies. A potential complication for Iran's airlines --- Ali Taheri, the spokesman of Parliament's Cultural Committee, has said that flights will be forbidden during the five Azan calls to prayer each day.

"According to the new directive, airplanes are banned from flying during Azan, especially during the call to morning prayers," Taheri said.

The head of the Aviation Organization, Hamid Reza Pahlevani, said aircraft will be allowed to take off 30 minutes after the call to morning prayer so that passengers have the time "to carry out their religious duties".

0956 GMT: Foreign Affairs Watch (Syrian Front). General Masoud Jazayeri, the deputy commander of the Revolutionary Guards, has put out a reassuring message --- even though thousands have been killed and hundreds of thousands displaced, there is "normal life in most parts of Syria" and, with the restraint of the Government, "people are going to get through this critical period".

0746 GMT: Foreign Affairs Watch (Turkish Front). Amid the escalating war of words between Turkey and Iran, Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast has denied Ankara's claim that the Islamic Republic is supporting the insurgency of the Turkish Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK).

Mehmanparast said the two countries were co-operating against the PKK, which has pursued an armed struggle for independence since 1984.

Last weekend Turkey's Minister of Interior Idris Naim Sahin claimed the PKK and an umbrella political organization, the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), are using Iran as a base for sanctuary and as a site for transit, training, recruitment, fund-raising. and the supply of arms and munitions.

“Recently, it has been witnessed that the terrorist organization has intensified its campaign through Iran, and Iran has not been paying much attention to security measures, especially in border areas [to thwart their movements],” Sahin said.

0723 GMT: Currency Watch. State news agency IRNA indirectly alludes to the weakening of the Iranian Rial, a development which led our Live Coverage yesterday.

Without giving specific numbers, IRNA quotes an official who said the shift was due to "seasonal demand" for foreign currency. He also indicated that Iran would put more foreign reserves into the special "trade room" set up for selected importers.

0530 GMT: The head of Iran's security forces, Esmail Ahmadi Moghaddam, has confirmed that the house arrests of opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi in February 2011 were ordered by the Supreme Leader.

Mousavi and Karroubi, along with their wives Zahra Rahnavard and Fatemeh Karroubi were detained as major protests, the first in more than a year, took place in Tehran. Fatemeh Karroubi was "freed" later in the year as her husband was moved to another apartment, but the other three activists are still imprisoned in their residences.

Ahmadi Moghaddam, in an interview with Kayhan, said the Supreme Leader withheld approval for the arrests of Mousavi and Karroubi during the protests of hundreds of thousands of people after the disputed 2009 Presidential elections that following the controversial 2009 presidential election, even as the police were jailing dozens of other prominent politicians and activists.

During the Ashura demonstrations of December 2009, when protesters challenged security forces on the streets, Ahmadi Moghaddam presented Ayatollah Khamenei with another list of figures to be arrested. The Supreme Leader pointed to the names of Mousavi and Karroubi and said, "I will take care of these myself."

The police chief effectively admitted that Mousavi and Karroubi will never be brought to court on formal charges. He said the judiciary and the security forces had prepared cases, but these were abandoned in favour of the house arrests.

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