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The Latest from Iran (9 December): Talking Tough on Sanctions

See also Iran Feature: How a US Neo-Con Pundit Is Helping Tehran's Propaganda
The Latest from Iran (8 December): Tehran to Hit New Low in Oil Exports?

2030 GMT: The House Arrests. Habibollah Asgarouladi, a leading member of the conservative Motalefeh Party, has called for the release of former Presidential cnadidates and opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi --- held under strict house arrest since February 2011 --- if they distance themselves from the protests after the disputed 2009 Presidential election.

Asgarouladi said, "We never say that the 2009 candidates took [seditious] actions because they are basically not seditious. We believe they were falling in line with seditious elements."

1720 GMT: Rafsanjani Watch. The lawyer for Mehdi Hashemi, the son of former President Hashemi Rafsanjani, said his client's detention order has been extended for another two months.

The attorney claimed that Hashemi, seized in September when he returned from a three-year exile in Britain, is under pressure to agree to a television interview.

1710 GMT: The Battle Within. Leading conservative MP Ahmad Tavakoli has launched a lengthy attack on President Ahmadinejad, citing the sharp fall in the currency, rising imports, excess cash in the economy, and mishandling of oil revenues.

Tavakoli said, however, that it was too late in Ahmadinejad's second term to consider replacing the President.

1610 GMT: Foreign Affairs Watch (Afghan Front). Hundreds of angry demonstrators tried to storm the Iranian consulate in the western Afghan city of Herat today, protesting the alleged killing of Afghan immigrants by Iranian security forces.

About 200 people threw rocks and broke consulate windows before security forces drove them back by firing warning shots into the air.

The protesters claimed 13 Afghans who had crossed the border into Iran were seized and later shot dead by Iranian security forces about three months ago.

1600 GMT: Health Watch. Minister of Health Marzieh Vahid Dastjerdi has called on the Central Bank to provide necessary foreign currency to import urgently-needed medical drugs and equipment.

With the call, Dastjerdi is trying to turn accusations of mismanagement back on the Bank --- some MPs have called for her impeachment amid the growing crisis in supplies, reportedly exacerbated by sanctions.

Dastjerdi said $2.5 billion dollars needs to be provided for private and public companies by March, or the problem will spiral out of control.

1510 GMT: Cyber-Watch. State broadcaster IRIB says it has launched a video-sharing website, Mehr.

The site is a domestic alternative to YouTube, which was blocked by the regime in the aftermath of the disputed 2009 Presidential election.

"From now on, people can upload their short films on the website and access (IRIB) produced material," said IRIB deputy chief Lotfollah Siahkali.

Attempts to access Mehr from Britain have been unsuccessful so far because of "internal server error".

0920 GMT: Currency Watch. An EA source in Iran reports that the Iranian Rial, after two months of recovery propped up by Central Bank intervention and the suspension of much of the open market, is beginning to slide again versus the US dollar.

The source confirms Iranian media assertions that the Rial, which had collapsed to almost 40000:1 and lost 70% of its value before the intervention in October, had strengthened to 27000:1 in Tehran. However, he says that the Rial in recent days had edged back above 30000:1.

The source adds that trading of US dollars and foreign currencies is still limited.

0905 GMT: The Battle Within. Fars reports on a clash in Parliament between Speaker Ali Larijani and pro-Ahmadinejad MP Mehdi Kouchakzadeh, with the atmosphere "tense for a few minutes" as Larijani unsuccessfully told Kouuchakzadeh to sit down.

The website also refers to a ceremony for Reza Taghipour, who is being replaced as Minister of Communications by Presidential ally Ali Nikzad. Significantly, Taghipour did not show up.

0725 GMT: There have been moments of telling admission this week from leading figures in the regime. We highlighted yesterday how Gholam Ali Haddad Adel, leader of the Principlist faction in Parliament and member of the Supreme Leader's inner circle, had warned an audience about "economic pressure" and "sedition" in the forthcoming Presidential election. Earlier in the week, Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani, saying that funds for development would have to be cut sharply, declared a "year of economic drought" for the Islamic Republic.

However, in the face of the latest US moves to tighten the vise, State media's headlines are defiant this morning. Press TV has two articles dismissing the American waivers on sanctions for countries which have reduced their purchases of Iranian oil, claiming that they actually show US weakness. MP Avaz Heidarpour provides the quote:

The nine countries to which the US has granted exemptions from oil sanctions against the Islamic Republic of Iran are among Tehran’s main oil buyers, whose interests are in buying oil from Iran; and on this basis, regardless of Washington’s decisions, they will continue with economic exchanges with Iran.

Meanwhile, President Ahmadinejad tried to put the spotlight elsewhere, proclaiming the Government's support of "heritage". He made the statement at a ceremony for the new head of the Iran Culture, Heritage, and Tourism Organization, a launching pad for the political careers of several of his close allies.


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