President Ahmadinejad greeting an unseen crowd in Hormozgan Province in southern Iran
1644 GMT: Your Tehran Friday Prayer Update. Ayatollah Mohammad Emami Kashani has the podium today, and he is in a nuclear mood: “As the [Leader of the Islamic Revolution] Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei has said and other Iranian officials have reiterated, the work done in the field of nuclear energy [in Iran] is not meant for making nuclear weapons."
Just to make sure the US, European powers, China, and Russia got the message before tomorrow's talks, Emami Kashani emphasised, “These activities are for scientific purposes; you must realize and believe this."
However, while the West ponders this reassurance, this passage from Emami Kashani is more interesting to me --- cheerleading for the Supreme Leader's "Year of National Production", worry about the economy, or both?:
Everyone must enjoy their lives. There should be jobs in society, [and] the youth should be able to marry and have good living and housing conditions; therefore, production is important....Honest investors must invest in order to serve the country and benefit from its profits. Jobs must be promoted qualitatively and quantitatively and everyone at any level should [be able to] lead a clean life.
1352 GMT: Economy Watch. Even in the sky, Iranians are not safe from inflation --- while prices for rice, chicken, eggs, and cooking fat are rising on the ground, aviation fuel for domestic airlines has almost tripled in cost from 400 to 1143 Toman (about $0.32 to $0.92 at official rate).
1344 GMT: How Do You Define "Chutzpah"? President advisor Saeed Mortazavi may be under threat of prosecution for his role, as Tehran Prosecutor General, in the abuses and killings at the Kahrizak detention centre in summer 2009, but he does not appear fazed.
Mortazavi has said of negotiations with MPs Ahmad Tavakoli and Alireza Zakani, among his leading critics, "I hope they act in line with national solidarity, as the Supreme Leader has said." He said the "istizah" (interrogation) problem of Minister of Labor Abdolreza Sheikholeslami, who has been threatened with impeachment in part because of his defence of Mortazavi, would "soon be settled".
1337 GMT: Nuclear Watch. The talks on Tehran's nuclear programme are not until tomorrow, but the Islamic Republic is already piling on the pressure --- from Press TV: "In Istanbul sources close to the Iranian delegation say Iran sees few encouraging points in the remarks of US and EU officials. They added that the Iranian delegation is waiting for an official statement by the P5+1 on the day of the talks."
1320 GMT: Tough Talk of the Day. Introducing the Tehran Friday Prayer, Amir Ahmadreza Pourdastan, commander of the military's ground forces, has said, "We will start no war, but will suppress any attack immediately."
1140 GMT: Picture of the Day. Activist Kouhyar Goudarzi, freed on bail on Thursday after 8 1/2 months in detention, with his mother Parvin Mokhtare, who was also imprisoned after her son's arrest in July 2011:
1120 GMT: Economy Watch. Gholam Ali Haddad Adel --- member of the Supreme Leader's inner circle, top vote-getter in Tehran's Parliamentary elections in March, former and possibly next Speaker of Parliament --- has declared in a broadcast, "My wife told me after her shopping that prices hv gone up. Officials must react."
1115 GMT: Rafsanjani Watch. The attacks on former President Hashemi Rafsanjani --- which have included criticism from leading politicans, the editor of Kayhan, and a representative of the Supreme Leader --- over his call for better relations with the US and Saudi Arabia continue.
Commander Mohammad Ghaffarinejad, the political deputy to the Governor of Khorasan Province has chided, "Rafsanjani is a simpleton and has sold himself."
0650 GMT: Green Voice of Freedom posts the English text of the warning by Minister of Higher Education and Science Kamran Daneshjoo that students with ties to protest and the Green Movement will be barred from entering universities.
Daneshjoo said that “those active in the sedition” did not have the “right” to higher education. Speaking at an inaugural ceremony in the holy city of Qom, he said the “main problem with the country’s universities is that in some cases, they have a Western approach and are rooted in the West".
0640 GMT: Oil Watch. Baztab reports a signficant drop in China's imports of Iranian oil. The conservative site says shipments are down 21.5% over the last two months, with Tehran now the Number 3 supplier to Beijing.
The significance is not in the numbers --- the oil industry says the fall in China's purchases is actually 42%--- but in the fact that a mainstream site inside Iran would confirm the news of a sharp decline in Tehran's exports of crude.
0620 GMT: Nuclear Watch. More general rhetoric on the forthcoming talks, this time in an opinion piece by Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi in The Washington Post, as he expressed Tehran's hope for comprehensive dialogue with "genuine efforts to reestablish confidence and trust".
Salehi, however, does appear to give the significant signal that Iran will play the talks "long" --- rather than concrete advances in Istanbul this weekend, look for discussions about further discussions. The Foreign Minister wrote, "Complex matters that have been left unaddressed for decades cannot be solved overnight. Another sign of mutual respect is a willingness and readiness to both give and take, without preconditions."
Salehi continued that dialogue "must be seen as a process" and not an event.
0355 GMT: Chatter about Iran will be dominated today by speculation about Saturday's nuclear discussions in Istanbul between Tehran and the 5+1 Powers (US, UK, Britain, France, Germany, Russia).
There will be claims about the possibilities for the Islamic Republic and the "West" --- Iran enters with strength (from outlets as divergent as Iran's Press TV and the Associated Press); no, Iran comes to the table in weakness. There will be claims about the positions that Washington and Tehran will take --- there will be a defined, step-by-step process set out for a resolution; no, the US and Europeans have no idea of their proposal (Russian deputy foreign minister Sergey Ryabkov:“We really do not have a common view of what’s the real offer to be made to Iran to bring it to serious negotiations").
The proof, if there is be any proof, will only begin to emerge after the talks adjourn tomorrow. So we'll begin, as usual, with attention to developments inside the Islamic Republic.
Iran's Inspector General Mostafa Pourmohammadi has sharply criticised the President's attempt this week to boost his position with a trip to the south of the country: "If I were Ahmadinejad, I would make no province tours this year, but instead meet with province officials to boost production."
Pourmohammadi added a shot over the $2.6 billion bank fraud that has embroiled Iran for seven months, claiming that it happened because there was no supervisory bank to control the cash flow.