1510 GMT: Oil Watch. Despite the US-led sanctions and the attempts to set up alternative supplies for Iran's customers, the director of the International Department of the National Iranian Oil Company says he is not worried.
Mohsen Qamsari said a supply of cheap crude by Iran would eliminate many competitors --- presumably countries like Saudi Arabia, encouraged by the US to replace any restrictions on Iran's sales --- from the oil market: “In the world market demand and supply are not the only determinant factors in oil prices.”
1320 GMT: Your Tehran Friday Prayer Update. Hojatoleslam Kazem Siddiqi is at the pulpit today, putting out the rhetoric on the Islamic Republic's nuclear talks with the US, European powers, China, and Russia.
Nothing much of significance, although rose-coloured glasses --- as with the international media's reading of Ayatollah Jannnati's sermon last week --- could see this as Iran's warming welcome to the discussions. Siddiqi said it would be in everyone's interest for all powers to "act rationally" in negotiations with Iran.
Siddiqi continued that Tehran is a rational actor, welcomes dialogue, and has repeatedly shown its goodwill, but now it is time for world powers to show their good intentions.
There was this important if general caveat, though, for anyone who might see this as concessions by the Islamic Republic ahead of the next meeting on 23 May in Baghdad: “The Istanbul meeting proved that the Iranian nation is powerful and will not retreat an iota from its rights.” And Siddiqi also put out the general denunciation of "global arrogance" seeking to create discord in the region while assuring that "vigilant nations" and Iran will not allow this.
"Iranian crude exports to Chinese refineries have not decreased at all in the current year," Mohsen Ghamsari, the head of international affairs at the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC), Mohsen Ghamsari, declared. "On average we are exporting about 500,000 barrels of crude to China per day."
Customs data indicates that China's crude imports from Iran were 346,183 barrels per day (bpd) in the first quarter of 2012, a reduction of more than 30% from a year earlier. The state-run China Petroleum & Chemical Corp (Sinopec) slashed purchases by 285,000 bpd, more thann half of the amount it imported daily in 2011.
March 2012 imports dropped 54 percent, compared to March 2011, to 253,302 bpd.
1155 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch (Journalism Edition). The US State Department has called for the release of more than 90 journalists in Iranian prisons, specifcally noting the case of Mohammad Seddigh Kaboodvand.
Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland noted that Kaboodvand has been detained since 2007 for "reporting on torture in Iranian prisons and...on human rights abuses against Iranian Kurds". In 2008, Kaboodvand was sentenced to 11 years on charges of acting against national security and propaganda against the regime.
Kaboodvand was the head of the Kurdistan Human Rights Defence Organization and director of the Payam-e Mardom newspaper. In 2009, he was awarded the Hellman-Hammett international award and the annual British Press Award.
1135 GMT: On Wednesday and Thursday, we reported the international media's flutter over a Bloomberg article, "Iran Says It May Halt Nuclear Program Over Sanctions", based on the Iranian Ambassador to Russia's remarks after a press conference. We cautiously asked, "1) Is Sajjadi speaking with full backing of the highest levels of the regime; 2) Will Iran pull back from its recently-acquired ability to enrich uranium to 20%, accepting a level such as 3.5% or 5%?"
Well, looks like we have an answer from the State news agency IRNA that damps down the excitement:
Iran’s Ambassador to Moscow Reza Sajjadi said on Thursday that Bloomberg TV channel has misquoted his remarks on Iran’s accession to Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) additional protocol.
Speaking to IRNA, he said the reporter of Bloomberg asked him whether there was any possibility for Iran to accept NPT additional protocol in reaction to the West’s measures and he replied such a thing 'might' happen.
He said that Bloomberg TV channel along with other media have covered the news in a way that his interview was merely about Iran's accession to NPT additional protocol which was not correct.
Bloomberg has magnified the issue in order to mislead public opinion, he said.
“I have only outlined the significant achievements Iran had made during talks with G5+1 in Istanbul,” he said.
While the Ambassador did not refer specifically to the level of uranium enrichment, his step back on the NPT --- because Bloomberg exaggerated his remarks, because he exceeded his authority or mis-spoke, or because the regime has had second thoughts --- backs up our analysis that there will be no Iranian "shift" without a public quid pro quo from the US and European powers on Iran's right to enrich uranium and on sanctions.
1125 GMT: Bad Fashion, Bad Tea Alert. Tehran Police Chief Hossein Sajednia has said that a new crackdown will be launched on inappropriate dress in the Iranian capital.
Meanwhile, ISNA reports that 35 teahouses have been shut down in west Tehran.
Nakhjavani called for Government and banks to support Iran's 13 private airlines.
Bodaghi, a member of the board of directors of the Iranian Teachers Trade Association, was detained on 1 September 2009 and has been given a six-year prison sentence and a five-year ban on all social activities for “propaganda against the regime” and “collusion and assembly with the intention to disrupt national security”.
0633 GMT: Gold Watch. A golden lining for the regime to Iran's currency difficulties....
Baztab Emrooz reports that the Government made a 780 trillion Toman (about $645 billion) profit from the pre-sale of gold coins to the public.
According to the site, the Government sold the coins when the value of the Iranian Rial was at its weakest early this year and when gold prices had spiked. With that gold price falling since then, the Government can claim a significant dividend from its move. The Government has also profited from a 5% tax on the sales plus 10% bank interest.
There are no reliable official statistics to meet the general assessment of analysts of "double-digit unemployment" in Iran.
0555 GMT: We begin Friday with news from the Political Prisoner front....
International human rights and student organisations have launched “Be the Voice of Enchained Students", responding to the call of Iranian counterparts to announce support for those detained for dissent and participation in protests.
At present, 29 students are serving long sentences in Iranian prisons. Several others are on bail and could be summoned at any time to serve their sentence. The Daftar-e Tahkim-e Vahdat student organisation has also provided Ahmad Shaheed, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran, with a comprehensive report documenting suspensions, expulsions, bans, and at least 2,000 violations of students’ rights from April 2009 to September 2011.
The campaign's signatories include Nobel Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, United4Iran, and The International Federation of Human Rights.
The 29 students in prison: Hassan Asadi Zeidabadi, Javad Alikhani, Mohammad Ahadi, Babak Dashab, Majid Dorri, Moin Ghamin, Mahdieh Golrou, Bahareh Hedayat, Saeed Jalalifar, Ali Jamali, Milad Karimi, Mehrdad Karami, Mehdi Kodaii, Omid Kokabi, Habibollah Latifi, Shabnam Madadzadeh, Ali Malihi, Aliakbar Mohammadzadeh, Atefeh Nabavi, Zia Nabavi, Hamed Omidi, Hossein Ronaghi Malaki, Hamed Rouhi Nejad, Roozbeh Saadati, Arash Sadeghi, Afshin Shahbazi, Fereshteh Shirazi, Iqan Shahidi, Abolfazl Tabarzadi, Majid Tavakoli, and Shahin Zeinali.