1958 GMT: Stoking Up the Temperature. Note the careful comments of Yukiya Amano, the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, when he is asked about the Parchin military site and possible testing of high explosives in the nuclear programme:
"We have information that some activity is ongoing there," Amano...said at agency headquarters.
Asked whether he was concerned that Iran may be trying to whitewash the site, he said: "That possibility is not excluded ... We cannot say for sure because we are not there."
The veteran Japanese diplomat added: "We have to go there."
Now look at how Reuters converts this into a really dramatic, scary story: "UN Nuclear Chief Doesn't Rule Out Iran 'Cleaning' Army Site".
1717 GMT: Censorship Watch. In an interview translated by Kamran Talattof, Farkhondeh Hajizadeh, author and managing editor of Vistar Press, speaks about the increasingly repressive environment for publication:
"The process of growing censorship has reached a point that even the concept of censor does not apply to it. In a time when we all seem to be living in glass houses and have nothing left to hide, such approaches to book publishing is synonymous to a return to the Middle Ages."
1540 GMT: Scott Lucas writes from the road:
Turkey's foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, said the talks about the nuclear program in Iran would take place in Istanbul in the beginning of April.
The expected meeting between Iran and the so-called P5+1 countries (the permanent five members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany) will be held in Istanbul in early April, according to Turkey’s top diplomat.
This confirms what we posted earlier this week about the nuclear talks --- Davutoglu met Iran's Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi earlier this week.
“The people in the election prevented those (candidates) toward whom we have borne resentment and who hardly gained the approval of (the Guardian Council) from entering the Majlis,” he said.
1447 GMT: Drums of War Watch - Reuters has posted an article suggesting that the "massive ordinance perpetrator" could be used against Iran's underground facilities:
A 30,000-pound (13,600-kg) bunker buster bomb designed to smash through some 200 feet of concrete before exploding is a "great weapon" that could be used by U.S. forces in a clash with Iran over its nuclear program, an Air Force general said on Thursday.
Lieutenant General Herbert Carlisle, Air Force deputy chief of staff for operations, said the massive ordnance penetrator, which the military began receiving only last year, is part of the U.S. arsenal available for strikes against countries like Iran, which has some buried nuclear facilities.
James Miller takes over today's live coverage while Scott Lucas is on the road.
Iranians stepped up purchases of gold, dollars, euros as hedges against the threat to stability, those avenues were closed off as authorities banned currency trades outside official venues and made investors wait mnths to buy gold --- leaving the real estate market as an alternative.
Building permits issued in Tehran jumped 87% in the June-August period from a year earlier, statistics from the Mayor's office show. Prices have risen at least 15% in the past three months, according to three real estate agents based in the capital, Tehran is more than twice as expensive as Istanbul a similar-size city in wealthier neighboring Turkey.
0645 GMT: We begin this morning with a special analysis linking the Supreme Leader's statement on nuclear talks with the "West" not only to relations with the US but, perhaps more importantly, to the quest for legitimacy at home.
A couple more signals....
Press TV highlights Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani's remarks as he met a Turkish official in Tehran on Wednesday: “Friendly relations between the two countries are not solely based on neighborhood, but also on empathy and common cultural-religious values.”
That call for co-operatation is standard rhetoric, of course, but in this case it is not just about economic ties. Turkey is expecting to host the resumption of the nuclear discussions, and Larijani used the occasion to reinforce the Supreme Leader's message that Tehran is talking, but talking from strength: “International powers are concerned about the expansion of the Islamic world’s capability and power in various technological, political and economic areas."
And there is the far different signal about the future of President Ahmadinejad. Thursday's political sparring featured the declaration of leading MPs that Ahmadinejad would be interrogated by Parliament next Wednesday, even as the President's men said the appearance would only occur when Ahmadinejad deemed the time was right.
Here's the extra note: Wednesday is the last day that Parliament convenes before the lengthy break for Persian New Year, so this is a game of chicken. If the Majlis gets Ahmadinejad into the chamber, it is a sign that he is on the political defensive. If the President holds out against that questioning, he is still kicking against his "lame-duck" status. And if he does not appear, it could indicate that the Supreme Leader --- for now --- is quite happy to have an Ahmadinejad who is under threat from his rivals, but who does not have to bow down publicly.