2025 GMT: Ahmadinejad Watch. On a slow political day, both the pro-Ahmadinejad IRNA and Fars give top billing to the President's appearance at the commemoration of the 13th-century poet Saadi. Ahmadinejad told the audience that the poems "reflect the recommendations and instructions of divine prophets for a happy life".
1425 GMT: Oil Watch. Additional notes on a busy day on the oil front....
Minister of Oil Rustam Qassemi has warned that an agreement for a Chinese firm to develop a phase of the giant South Pars oil and gas field could be cancelled, giving Beijing one month to resume activity.
Qassemi also claimed that Iran does not smuggle gasoline, an apparent reference to allegations of supplies being moved from Iraqi Kurdistan.
And an EA reader offers this caution on an earlier fragment of good news (see 1105 GMT) that Iran increased oil output and exports in February, despite sanctions:
[The report] is based on statistics provided by the Joint Organisations Data initiative (JODI), an organisation wholly dependent on data provided by relevant government agencies.
JODI collects its data by asking members to complete an Excel-based questionnaire every month. The responsibility to provide accurate data falls upon the relevant government agencies of member states (which, in Iran's case, is the Ministry of Petroleum, spearheaded by the honest and humble Rostam Qassemi).
It is better to rely on data provided by the industry itself to gauge the health of Iran's oil sector.
1421 GMT: Money Watch. A Parliamentary committee will examine the Central Bank's overnight withdrawals of funds from Iranian banks, reportedly amounting to several billion dollars, forwarding its report to the judiciary.
1414 GMT: CyberWatch. Rouhollah Momen-Nasab, the head of the Ministry of Culture's centre to promote digital media, has said that filtering websites in Iran is "democratic", in contrast to control of the Internet in the "West".
1354 GMT: Ahmadinejad Watch. The President, speaking at a conference promoting tourism, has praised his controversial colleagues Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai and Hamid Baghaei for their roles in the sector.
Rahim-Mashai, Ahmadinejad's Chief of Staff, and Vice President Baghaei have been under political fire for being a "deviant current" and have also faced possible prosecution over alleged mismanagement. Both are former heads of Iran's Culture, Heritage, and Tourism Organization.
The first meeting of Ahmadinejad's Council to Supervise the Constitution has taken place today. The President has persisted with the body even though Parliament says it is not legal.
All is not smooth sailing for the President, however. Twenty-one MPs have launched a complaint claiming that Ahmadinejad has insulted legislators and failed to answer questions, "ridiculing the Parliament".
Shell, the world's largest oil firm, has reportedly had difficulty in paying because of sanctions o financial transactions.
Qassemi also repeated that sales had been halted to Britain and France although he added --- contrary to earlier claims by officials --- that there was no embargo on Spain and Germany.
1333 GMT: The Indictment of Press TV. An EA correspondent passes on another item in the dossier of alleged abuses by State broadcaster Press TV (see 0835 GMT)....
In this documentary alleging espionage and conspiracy by BBC Persian against the Iranian regime, Press TV supposedly uses photographs taken from the seized computers of journalists. The images, at the 12-minute mark in the video, are of a BBC workshop in Turkey; they are immediately followed by footage from the Revolutionary Guards of a BBC suspect "confessing"":
1111 GMT: Tough Talk of the Day (cont.). Major General Ataollah Salehi, the commander of the Iranian Armed Forces said Wednesday, that Iran has notified two US aircraft carriers deployed in the Persian Gulf that they are not allowed to stop in certain areas of the Persian Gulf designated by Iranian naval forces.
Salehi asserted, “We had previously notified them that they must not stop in the areas of the Persian Gulf which are considered areas of threat for us, and they heeded the warning.”
He added, “They are soft targets for us.”
1105 GMT: Oil Watch. An interesting revelation from the Joint Organization Data Initiative of a slight bounce-back in Iranian oil output and exports, despite sanctions, in February....
According to JODI, Tehran increased crude output by 0.9% to 3.752 million barrels a day in February. Exports rose to 2.338 million barrels a day from 2.265 million in January.
Saudi Arabia, the largest oil producer in the world, pumped 9.853 million barrels a day in February, 0.2% less than the previous month, while reducing exports to 7.485 million barrels a day from 7.507 million in January.
At the same time, there was a sign that the Saudis are stockpiling oil in anticipation of a squeeze in Iranian exports with the European Union's 1 July cut-off and further US restrictions on financial arrangements for Tehran. Oil inventories in Saudi Arabia rose 4.8% in February from a month earlier.
1053 GMT: Tough Talk of the Day. General Ahmad Reza Pourdastan, the commander of Iran's ground forces, has warned that the Islamic Republic's military is ready for action if diplomacy fails to resolve the status of the disputed Persian Gulf island of Abu Musa.
The island is controlled by Iran but claimed by the United Arab Emirates.
The dispute dates back to Iran's occupation of the island in 1971 but revived after President Ahmadinejad, trying to boost his domestic popularity, included Abu Musa in a tour of southern Iran last week. The visit brought a sharp reaction from the media and officials of Gulf States.
Pourdastan said, "We do not allow any country to carry out an invasion. If these disturbances are not solved through diplomacy, the military forces are ready to show the power of Iran to the offender. Iran will strongly defend its right."
0955 GMT: Economy Watch. According to the Green Voice of Freedom, the Central Bank has admitted that 80% of food item in Iran have risen by more than 20% in cost since last year. Many of them have increased in price by more than 50%.
0835 GMT: The Press and Political Prisoners. Justice for Iran, compiling a dossier against State broadcaster Press TV, claims the channel has abused Iranian Arab protesters in Khuzestan in southwestern Iran.
The group alleges that detainees have been forced to "confess" on air as "terrorists", after they were beaten and denied access to attorneys and families.
0815 GMT: Nuclear Watch. A footnote to our opening item on the Supreme Leader's "positive" outlook on the nuclear talks between Iran and the 5+1 Powers --- Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said on Wednesday, “We are optimistic about the future of negotiations and want the other sides to put their words into action.”
Switzerland says it will not follow the European Union in freezing the assets of Iran’s Central Bank and in imposing an oil embargo on the Islamic Republic.
The Swiss Economics Ministry said the exception to the EU measures is made for the bank “due to its importance for the Iranian economy".
True, but Press TV's headline does not quite match up with this sentence in the story, "The Swiss Federal Council, however, decided to freeze the assets of eight companies and three individuals."
0800 GMT: Cartoons of the Day. Not all Iranian observers are impressed with this week's speech of former President Mohammad Khatami --- following his controversial decision to vote in March's Parliamentary elections --- calling for a political atmosphere producing both the benefit of rule and the benefit of fundamental rights. Nikahang Kowsar sees the weakness in a Khatami strategy pointing towards the 2013 Presidential campaign:
And Eghbal Mahvari is even sharper as his Khatami, holding a lamb kebab, tells a sheep, "We must do something that neither the regime nor the people are damaged."
0740 GMT: Clerical Intervention. Mohammad Soroush Mahallati, a professor at a Qom seminary, has effectively criticised the Supreme Leader and President Ahmadinejad with the question, "What is haram (forbidden) for an Islamic ruler?"
Mahallati, comparing dictatorial and democratic systems, said people have no say in the former and thus rulers are not accountable. And --- in the context of video of Iranians pleading for the President's help this week during his visit to the south of the country --- he said, "Rulers urge people to seek benefactions."
0600 GMT: We start on the nuclear front and a notable piece of public relations by the Supreme Leader's chief foreign policy advisor, former Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati.
We might be sceptical at EA about the prospects for a breakthrough in the talks --- see our analyses this week about the low chance of Iran succeeding with the demand of an initial reduction in sanctions and the attempt to split Europe from the US --- but Velayati was upbeat in comments to State media:
This was a positive step by the 5+1 group, and they finally returned to the negotiation table after many months and, in effect, they have reached the conclusion that the Islamic Republic will not accept the language of threats. The Islamic Republic has said on many occasions that when they give up threats and prepare for talks, it is ready to negotiate with them in the framework of international regulations and its given rights.
Velayati said the 5+1 Powers (US, Britain, France, Germany, China, and Russia) had for the first time acknowledged Iran's has the right to exploit nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.
Ahh, but here's the issue of substance rather than spin. The US and Europeans have always acknowledged Iran's "right" to work with uranium up to 3.5%. What they have not done, and thus the issue of the talks, is accept Iran's enrichment to 20%, claiming this could be a platform for further enrichment and thus militarisation of the programme.
So are there "positive" numbers to back up the claimed optimism of the Supreme Leader's camp?