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The Latest from Iran (17 April): Splitting Europe from the US Over Nukes and Sanctions
Robabeh Rezai said the fast began on Saturday when Shahabi, a leading member of the bus drivers' union, he received a six-year prison sentence.
Shahabi has been detained since June 2010.
1440 GMT: President v. Parliament. MP Ruhollah Hosseinian, a supporter of President Ahmadinejad, has claimed that Parliament, with its criticism of the Government, has tried to "destabilise" the Iranian system.
1330 GMT: Reformist Watch. Former President Mohammad Khatami has said there has been "a problem" in the Iranian system over the last three years and that people work for an atmosphere which provides both the benefit of rule and the benefit of fundamental rights.
Khatami also called for the release of all political prisoners.
The Swiss Federal Council froze the assets of eight companies and three individuals while holding out against the freeze on the Central bank "due to its importance for the Iranian economy".
0809 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Mohammad-Reza Motamednia, a former advisor to the military command but now held in Evin Prison, has begun a hunger strike demanding the release of opposition figures Mir Hossein Mousavi, Zahra Rahnavard, and Mehdi Karroubi.
Mousavi, Rahnavard, and Karroubi have been held under strict house arrest since February 2011.
Motamednia sent out the message that he was striking to protest “all the cruelty, pressure, injustice and in defense of the blood of all martyrs of the Islamic republic and as a respect for all the national beliefs”.
Meanwhile, Iran's Customs Administration is claiming that foreign trade increased 45% in the last month of Iranian year 1390 (20 February-19 March), compared to the previous month.
The Adminstration say trade was almost $11 billion during the period.
The sources said Engen, majority-owned by Malaysian national oil company Petronas, will replace about half of the Iranian volumes with Saudi supplies. The remainder will be filled up from the spot market, mainly from West Africa.
The refiner suspended an annual contract for 50,000 barrels per day of Iranian crude in March.
The Ministry of Intelligence said in a Tuesday statement that both Iranians and foreigners had been detained. It claimed the ring had planned an operation for 10 February, one day before the celebration of the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
0515 GMT: We begin this morning with an All-Is-Well Alert:
Iran's Oil Minister Rostam Qasemi says despite international pressures and foreign sanctions against Iran, none of the country’s oil industry projects have been stopped so far....
Despite the intensification of sanctions, new records have been registered for building new gas refineries in the South Pars region....Despite international sanctions, the Oil Ministry welcomes foreign companies’ investment and participation in [developing Iran's] oil and gas industries,” he added. Qasemi further noted that due to the high quality of Iran's crude oil, the country is currently facing no restrictions for selling and exporting crude oil to global markets.
And Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani says all is on course for an Iranian triumph in the nuclear talks: “[The West has] realized that they will face effective interaction by the Islamic Republic of Iran if they substitute the bullying language with prudence and the dual attitudes with a legal system....We take notice of the change in the West’s attitude.”
For the record, we offer the not-all-is-well assessment of an Iranian correspondent for EA:
We need to once again focus on the sanctions situation....SWIFT [the provider of global financial transactions] did not suspend the Iranian banks due to specific sanctions levied by the European Union or the US. It did so because it was nudged into doing it after polite requests by the US and, more importantly, the sweeping reputation risks associated with having to do with Iran.
This is the killer blow these days: the informal, reputation-based decisions to sever business links with Iran at all levels that has in some cases reached all the way to the oil procurement sectors of many governments and more. For example, MTN, the South African partner of Irancell, is under investigation for the ways in which it edged out Turkcell to win the contract and could very well pull out of Iran after the South African government's decision to call it quits on tight economic links with Iran.
Will [the next nuclear talks on 23 May in] Baghdad solve the above? Unlikely. Iran needs to embark on initiatives possibly well out of its reach in order to regain the semblance of ordinary trade links, say pre-2009....In the immediate future, Tehran needs to come out with winning quick-thinking, and cease the delusion that somehow Western economic crises will cause a change of heart and suspension of the July 1 deadline [for the European Union's cut-off of Iranian oil imports].