Iran Election Guide

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The Latest from Iran (17 March): Ahmadinejad All-is-Well Alert

2004 GMT: Oil Watch. The Indian Governmennt has exempted payment in rupees for oil imports from Iran from 40% withholding tax, easing the way for refiners to use the local currency for purchases.

In Jnauary, India and Iran agreed to settle 45% of oil trade in rupees, but Indian refiners and the National Iranian Oil Company had refused to pay the tax.

1959 GMT: Tough Talk of the Day. Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani has declared that Israel will not launch a military assault: “They make a lot of fuss about it but don’t dare to attack Iran. They are like dogs that keep barking but are not for attacks.”

1819 GMT: Business News. Tabriz City Council has awarded the $12-billion contract to develop the Tabriz subway system to Khatam-ol-anbia Construction, the consortium run by Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps.

The agreement is for 22.4 kilomtres of subway line with 20 stations over the next seven years.

1811 GMT: Sanctions Watch. The China Shipping Development Company, responding to reports that European insurers will withdraw coverage from tankers carrying Iranian oil, has said that the Government is discussing how to provide insurance once the sanctions take effect on 1 July..

General Manager Yan Zhichong said the Ministry of Transport and National Development Reform Commission held special meetings on the issue: “The attitude is clear --- we must make sure that the volume of our shipments will not drop. The government regards it as a very important issue.”

Yan said China may nominate an insurer to cover oil shipments from Iran to ensure that supplies can continue.

China Shipping Development, part of the state-controlled China Shipping Group, had a fleet of 72 tankers at the end of last year.

1506 GMT: Justice Watch. Press TV has aired a documentary on "Al-Ahvazi Terrorists in Khuzestan".

Residents in Ahwaz city and in Khuzestan Province in southwest Iran have long protested over political, economic and social conditions, with activists claiming that some demonstrators have been detained and abused.

1319 GMT: Rafsanjani Watch. Political analyst Sadegh Zibakalam offers a vivid example of the carrot-and-stick approach being used to deal with former President Hashemi Rafsanjani --- while Rafsanjani was appointed by the Supreme Leader as head of the Expediency Council for another five years, the ex-President is blocked from seeing foreign diplomats.

1309 GMT: Claim of the Day. Iranian engineers say they have made a new type of drone, capable of military and border patrol missions.

The new remote-controlled aircraft, called Shaparak (Butterfly), has a maximum operational radius of 50 kilometres (31 miles) and a maximum flight ceiling of 4,572 metres (15,000 feet). IT can fly for 3 1/2 hours with an 8-kilogramme (17-pound) payload.

The engineers said the drone could be used for military missions, border patrol, forest and road traffic monitoring, search and rescue, and pipeline monitoring.

1300 GMT: Elections Watch. The Ministry of Interior has announced that the second round of Parliamentary elections will take place on 4 May.

In the first ballot on 2 March, 225 candidates won seats in the 290-member Majlis; however, only five of Tehran's 30 slots were filled.

1250 GMT: Oil Watch. Muhammad Ali Khatibi, Iran's represenative to the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, has said the country has no intention of discounting its oil exports, despite the pressure from US-led sanctions on Tehran's customers: "We are not off-price."

Khatibi's remarks came after it emerged that Iran increased its official selling prices to Asia for April in line with those of Saudi Arabia. Some expected Tehran to cut prices after the European Union decided to embargo Iranian imports from 1 July.

Analyst Trevor Houser said the Iranians know that "once they give the first discount, other buyers will smell blood in the water."

Iran is instead offering flexible payment terms to oil buyers in Asia. Pakistan has been offered 80,000 barrels a day on a three-month credit, while Tehran has agreed to rupee payments from India for 45% of purchases.

Last year Iran earned more than $80 billion from oil exports, estimated to be around 60% of its total foreign earnings.

Meanwhile, in a sign that Saudi Arabia is planning to cover the fall in supply from embargo of Iranian exports, the Saudis have booked the most tankers in years to supply the US.

Vela, the shipping unit of state-owned Saudi Aramco, booked nine "very large crude carriers" in the past week to ship to America. A further two vessels, each capable of carrying about 2 million barrels, were chartered earlier in March --- all 11 are scheduled to load in the last week of this month or first week of April.

Vela booked an average of one VLCC to the U.S. every other month last year.

1010 GMT: Corruption Watch. The third hearing in the trial of 32 defendants in the $2.6 billion bank fraud case has been held in Tehran today.

0750 GMT: Compare and Contrast. An Iranian military commander, interviewed by State news agency IRNA: "Iran is ready to export its military knowledge to friends and allied countries."

Press TV highlights the response of Iraq's Nuri al-Maliki about claims of that export of "military knowledge": "Iraqi Prime Minister dismisses reports by a US daily (see Friday's Syria and Beyond Live Coverage) on the shipment of Iran's aid cargo to crisis-hit Syria, stressing that all items dispatched to Damascus through Iraq were humanitarian goods."

0730 GMT: Inflation may be above 30% and unemployment may defy the President's predictions that all in Iran will have a job by the end of his term. Allegations of mismanagement and missing money from the Government budget may bedevil the system. Corruption, such as the $2.6 billion bank embezzlement, may be a bit of a bother.

But Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is unfazed. This morning he inaugurated 4000 housing units in Tehran and declared that every applicant will have a resolution of his/her situation by next March.

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