Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan belatedly meets President Ahmadinejad in Tehran today
2105 GMT: Economy Watch. Khabar Online posts an analysis focusing on the increasing, negative gap between income and expenses for the average Iranian household.
2055 GMT: Politics Watch. While the focus today has been on the Erdoğan visit to Tehran, domestic political manoeuvring has continued. Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani, on a visit to Mazanderan Province in northern Iran, has spoken about the economy, "I am concerned about closings --- banks should support production units."
Even more interesting is the intervention of key MP Ahmad Tavakoli, a cousin of Larijani's. Saying "politicians must beware not to be separated from people", Tavakoli continued, "I am optimistic about progress in nuclear talks in 1391 (March 2012-March 2013)."
That could be significant because, in October 2009, the emergence of public opposition from Ali Larijani was a major reason why the Geneva nuclear talks between Iran and the 5+1 Powers were sidelined. Could Tavakoli be indicating that, 29 months later, the Larijani camp will be happy to accept a deal provided President Ahmadinejad does not get the credit?
Little did we know that Press TV was actually foreshadowing a major step by the regime. Tonight the Iranian authorities have withdrawn the accreditation of the Reuters bureau in Tehran.
The 11 staff in the bureau have been told to hand back their press cards. Reuters said it is in discussions with Iranian officials to regain accreditation.
2005 GMT: The Erdoğan Visit. Interestingly Aftab, reporting on Prime Minister Erdoğan's visit with the Supreme Leader, leads with Syria. The website stresses Ayatollah Khamenei's opposition to any US-based plan or foreign intervention and his declaration that the Islamic Republic will defend Damascus.
State outlet IRNA uses the occasion for more platitudes such as "emphasis on the need to deepen cooperation" with an "association in favour of Iran and Turkey and the Muslim world", with the Supreme Leader asserting that the US does not want any country in the region to be independent.
There is a mention of Syria, with Ayatollah Khamenei saying that Iran will defend Syria, with its support of resistance against the Zionist regime, against any foreign interference in its internal affairs.
As with the summary of his meeting with President Ahmadinejad, Erdoğan is given a brief space --- two paragraphs --- at the end to praise co-operation between Ankara and Tehran.
1635 GMT: Ahmadinejad Watch. Make of this what you will --- Fars, the news agency linked to the Revolutionary Guards, has no mention of President Ahmadinejad's meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan on the homepage of its website.
Derakshan was arrested at his home by agents of the Ministry of Intelligence on 21 February on charges of “propaganda against the regime". His apparent "crime" was to publish an open letter to the Supreme Leader last year, drawing attention to human rights violations against the Baha'i community, including the exclusion of Bahai youth from higher education, and the denials of these by Iran’s representatives at the United Nations.
An EA correspondent explains, "These emigration offices are mostly active in the cybersphere and are apparently a serious challenge to 'ordinary', i.e., government emigration organisations. The ban is apparently for fear of excessive flight of capital and brain drain --- while the "khodi" (elite) are free to invest abroad."
1455 GMT: Claim of the Week. Ayatollah Jannati, the head of the Guardian Council, has declared at a ceremony in Tehran that the "USA will fall soon" and the "victory of the Islamic umma will be celebrated" with a prayer in the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jeruslam.
1335 GMT: The Erdoğan Visit --- The Iranian Spin. State outlet IRNA's summary of the Erdoğan-Ahmadinejad meeting did not appear for some time after the Turkish version. It reads as a boiler-plate press release, rather than a re-cap of anything that was actually said by either man.
According to IRNA, Ahmadinejad "pointed to the friendly and brotherly relations between Iran and Turkey and the need to maintain and deepen bilateral relations in all fields: political, economic, and cultural", with an emphasis on the expansion of trade between the two countries.
IRNA, a pro-Ahmadinejad outlet, adds rhetoric such as "the use of existing capacities in the two countries should expand with exchanges " with "promotion the multilateral political relations, economic and cultural advancement of the interests, welfare and security of the two nations". There is an appreciative "clear and explicit recognition of Turkey's stance on the Iranian nuclear issue", with Tehran and Ankara standing against "Western domination". Ahmadinejad, in this release, said Iran and Turkey will always be strong against "common enemies" and "vigilant against plots"..
Erdoğan gets only one sentence in the summary: "Turkey's government and people always have expressed clear support of Iran's nuclear stance and in the future will follow this policy seriously."
The sharp-eyed reader will notice that there is absolutely no reference to Syria, which was supposed to be one of the main concerns raised by the Turkish Prime Minister.
1325 GMT: The Erdoğan Visit. Back from an academic break to find, courtesy of my colleague Ali Yenidunya (see Turkey Live Coverage) and Turkish media, that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has finally met President Ahmadinejad.
The session, delayed from Wednesday because of Ahmadinejad's reported "gastrorraghia", lasted for 1 1/2 hours. No statement was given to the press afterwards, although a photograph was released.
There is still no news of a discussion with President Ahmadinejad.
1010 GMT: Ahmadinejad Watch. Alef, linked to key MP Ahmad Tavakoli, takes a swipe at the President, claiming that he has implemented less than 8% of 298 Majlis bills on time. The website added that Ahmadinejad has refused to act on 26 of the measures.
1005 GMT: Fraud Watch. The head of judiciary, Sadegh Larijani, has declared with respect to the ongoing legal issues over the $2.6 billion bank fraud, "Officials should not expect safe haven for special persons."
0955 GMT: Nuclear Watch. With the exact date and venue for Iran's nuclear talks with the 5+1 Powers still to be confirmed, there is room for media tittle-tattle and speculation. Iranian State news agency IRNA claims Hassan Rohani, Iran's former lead negotiator, is in Vienna for preparatory discussions before the official meeting. Rohani's office, however, say that he is in Austria "for family reasons".
0905 GMT: The Erdoğan Visit. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has met Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani. Iranian State outlet IRNA is putting out standard lines: "Iran and Turkey are working closely together to manage the many complex issues and problems", "development of trade-economic relations", and a "line of resistance against the Zionist regime".
All of this only prompts us to note that there is still no sign of Erdoğan with President Ahmadinejad.
0900 GMT: Ahmadinejad v. the Clerics. It looks like the President, in his defiance, has picked another fight with senior clergy and possibly his political rivals.
During his high-profile trip to Tajikistan this week, Ahmadinejad made a pointed speech in which he used Persian heroes such as Cyrus the Great and the poet Ferdowsi.
The issue is that this supposed Ahmadinejad's supposed "Iran-first" approach rather than an "Islam-first" portrayal of the Islamic Republic. The divisions in thought have been part of the contest for power within the Iranian establishment since the disputed Presidential election of June 2009.
Grand Ayatollah Nasser Makarem Shirazi has hit back at the President, "Even Ferdowsi himself did not claim to have saved Islam."
China Aluminum International Engineering, a unit of State-owned Chinese aluminum producer Chinalco, is delaying plans for a Hong Kong initial public offering that could have raised around US$500 million until at least June, when a contract the company has with Iran expires.
One of the sources said the company has a “small contract with Iran that expires in June, so it felt that doing an IPO after that would create a cleaner company that can be marketed to investors”. He added, however, that overall weak markets were more to blame for the decision to push back the float from an original plan of listing in March.
0742 GMT: Campus Watch. Rah-e Sabz publishes a detailed report on violations of student rights in the last Iranian year (March 2011-March 2012), with a graph setting out the prison sentences imposed by the regime.
0722 GMT: Foreign Affairs (Syrian Front). The spokesman for Kofi Annan has denied that the United Nations envoy is visiting Iran next week for talks on the Syrian crisis. Ahmad Fawzi said Annan will speak to the UN Security Council instead, in a video conference from Geneva on Monday.
Iranian Foreign Minister, Ali Akbar Salehi told the media earlier on Wednesday, “Kofi Annan will travel to Tehran next week, probably Monday.”
(Cross-posted from our Syria and Beyond Live Coverage)
0705 GMT: The Erdoğan Visit. Another snippet that cuts against the theme of peace and harmony during Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan's talks in Tehran:
Turkey’s energy minister [Taner Yildiz] said on Wednesday there is no reason to backtrack from suing Iran over a gas price that Turkey says is too high....
In the absence of an agreement over the price Turkey pays for Iranian natural gas, Turkey said last month that the government is getting ready to sue Iran in an international court of arbitration for a settlement that the two countries could not reach on their own.
[Yildiz]...said he was not suspicious of the Iranians' good intentions to resolve the matter bilaterally, yet Turkey remained with but one option after months-long discussions to that end proved futile.
Turkey pays Iran $423 for every 1,000 cubic meters of natural gas, the most expensive price Turkey pays to any country. It pays $418 to Russia and $282 to Azerbaijan for the same amount of natural gas.
0555 GMT: We start the day by sifting through the visit of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to Tehran.
As expected, both sides are spinning their positions on political and economic issues. As expected, Iran is publicly pushing back against any Turkish pressure to distance itself from Syrian President Assad or to adjust its approach towards Iraq. As expected, Iranian media are proclaming Ankara's support for Tehran's nuclear programme, ahead of talks in mid-April between Iran and the 5+1 Powers, with this soundbite from Erdoğan: "No one has the right to use coercive force against a country whose activities are aimed at peaceful nuclear purposes."
What was not expected was this --- from the Turkish newspaper Zaman:
A scheduled meeting between Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was postponed on Wednesday after Iran said the president is suffering of gastrorrhagia....
Erdoğan will be meeting Iran's most powerful authority, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, as well as the Iranian President on Thursday.
Gastrorrhagia is "upper gastrointestinal bleeding". It sounds more serious than an upset stomach or the after-effects of a heavy meal, and a postponed meeting between Presidents --- especially given the high-profile issues such as Syria and the nuclear talks --- is a far from incidental development. Yet there is no mention of this in Iranian State outlets such as IRNA and Press TV this morning.
Perhaps this is all just a flutter and we will soon be seeing the photos of smiling Erdoğan and smiling Ahmadinejad. But just in case we do not, let us put forth both the possibility of serious bleeding in the President's abdomen and serious bleeding in his political position at home.