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The Latest from Iran (21 March): Manoeuvring the Sanctions

See also Iran Feature: The Week in Civil Society --- Celebrating Despite Economic Decline and the Crackdown
Iran Opinion: A Counter-Message to Obama's Nowruz Video
Iran Video: President Obama's Nowruz Message
The Latest from Iran (20 March): Happy Nowruz

1520 GMT: Nuclear Watch. Iran's representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, has declared that Tehran will not pull out of the Non-Proliferation Treaty; however, it will not halt its nuclear energy programme.


1240 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Dissident blogger and physician Mehdi Khazali, freed on bail last weekend after a 70-day hunger strike, has thanked people for support: "I managed to get my message to the world, to the Islamic Republic's officials, and to the maraje (senior clerics)."

1030 GMT: In an interview with the German magazine Stern, President Ahmadinejad's media advisor Ali Akbar Javanfekr has denied both the "failure" of the Ahmadinejad camp in the Parliamentary elections and the claim of a low turnout. He asserted that the President had proven his popularity during last week's "interrogation" in Parliament.

Javanfekr added that the West "should change its attitude" towards the Islamic Republic. He expressed confidence that Washington will not attack Iran, while saying Israel is just a puppet of the US.

0930 GMT: Oil Watch. Voice of America, reviewing the Iranian press, claims an oil industry "in crisis", 61 years after it was nationalised by Tehran. Government and Parliament have no data on purchases and income. The question is raised: why are national reserves now depleted, according to the President, when they were at $13 billion in 2009 and there has been $283 billion oil income since then?

0830 GMT: The House Arrests. Mohammad Hossein Karroubi, the eldest son of the detained opposition figure Mehdi Karroubi, has seen his father for the first time in four months.

The younger Karroubi wrotes on his Facebook page that the visit lasted 12 hours. Mehdi Karroubi said, "Loneliness has its problems, but because of my work and in keeping with the way that people have chosen, I do not despair....Whatever the cost, much more will be achieved....I hope that in the near future we will witness the success of our people and country."

Mehdi Karroubi has been held under strict house arrest since February 2011.

0540 GMT: On the day after Nowruz, attention has already returned to the economy. Or rather it has moved from the rhetoric --- the Supreme Leader's proclamation of the "Year of National Production" following a 2011/12 which supposedly saw the "great success" of the "Year of Economic Jihad" --- to the reality.

Press TV tries to find hope in a US "exemption" of 10 European Union members and Japan from "tough new sanctions on Iran as they have reduced oil purchase from Tehran".

That's a slight distortion: Washington exempted the 11 countries from sanctions on their own economies, finding that they had complied with the US effort to isolate Tehran. But the website does accurately offer the words of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:

[These countries] had to rethink their energy needs at a critical time for the world economy and quickly begin to find alternatives to Iranian oil, which many had been reliant on for their energy needs. Diplomacy coupled with strong pressure can achieve the long-term solutions we seek and we will continue to work with our international partners to increase the pressure on Iran to meet its international obligations.

Even more interesting in the US manoeuvring of sanctions is the confirmation, amidst charges that Washington's squeeze is hurting the Iranian people rather than the regime, of more American sales of wheat to Tehran.

US officials said Iran has purchased 60,000 more metric tonnes, bring the two-week tally to 180,000 tonnes. Sources said the Islamic Republic is close to completing purchases of another 220,000 tonnes to be shipped as early as April, and is in talks with exporters to buy another undisclosed amount.

The price tag for the 400,000 tonnes -- 180,000 confirmed and 220,000 yet to be formally declared -- could be around $160 million.

Iran has purchased about 2 million tonnes of wheat from several countries since February as it stockpiles food.

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