See also Iran Feature: Obama Ordered Cyber-Attacks on Tehran br>
Iran Feature: 17 NGOs Protest "Government Assault on Academic Freedom" br>
Iran Audio Feature: "Tehran's Troubled Relationship with China" --- Scott Lucas with Monocle 24 br>
Thursday's The Latest from Iran (31 May): Towards a Diplomatic Crash in Moscow?
2010 GMT: Clerical Intervention. An extract from the statement of Grand Ayatollah Mousavi Ardebili criticising elements in the regime for letting down the people --- we are watching to see if this causes ripples in Iranian politics and society:
Now I see some deeds and outcomes and wonder if we have been negligent in our responsibilities or are culpable. When our friends were struggling, they had much higher expectations....
I want to use this opportunity to tell the honourable people of Iran, the families of martyrs, and all the people who worked hard that we stepped in this path in good faith, but perhaps we were negligent, and if any of the current problems and failures are results of my actions, I apologize to everybody....
I am speaking for myself. I am concerned about my own actions and inactions. If we all had acted appropriately, we would not have reached this situation. I am afraid that all of us, former and current officials of the country, have to apologize to the people, more so those of us that wear the cloak of spiritual leaders....
Mousavi Ardebili urged the Islamic Republic's leaders to "honestly apologise for their mistakes" without fear of the consequences, as honesty and a serious attempt at making amends would result in understanding and reconciliation.
1500 GMT: Foreign Affairs (Syria Front). Robert Ford, the US Ambassador to Syria, has put out a statement that the Iranian regime is arming the regime. He said the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps is supplying logistical support for Damascus, and the Quds force is directly supporting the "shabiha", pro-Assad militias suspected of being responsible for a large amount of the violence in the conflict's 15-month history:
To echo what Secretary Clinton said yesterday, the violent situation in Syria is a destabilizing force in the region. Russia continues to supply the Syrian military with arms. We all know that the Iranian regime’s interests are deeply embedded in the Assad regime’s survival - it is directly supporting the Syrian government through lethal and non-lethal means, and its revolutionary guard corps (IRGC) and intelligence services are coaching the Syrian military. The IRGC’s Qods force, which takes explicit instruction from the Iranian regime, appears to be helping set up the sectarian government-affiliated militias in Syria commonly referred to as the Shabiha. On the other hand, Syria’s neighbors like Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon are concerned about the role this conflict will play in their countries. Therefore, we call on the Syrian regime implement all other elements of Annan’s six-point plan so that a political process can begin to address the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people.
(Cross-posted from Syria and Beyond Live Coverage)
1330 GMT: Your Tehran Friday Prayer Update. Not sure I follow the logic of Hojatoleslam Siddiqi here in connecting the Syrian crisis with the demise of Israel, but his Friday Prayer sermon matches our headline for today's coverage: "Western efforts to strengthen the Zionist regime by arming terrorists in Syria are futile as Israel’s expiration date is overdue and it is doomed to extinction."
Siddiqi attempted this link, "The six-point peace plan for Syria put forward by the UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan was making good headway until the Western world started arming terrorist groups in the country in an bid to support Israel."
1210 GMT: Foreign Affairs (Syria Front). International traders say that Iran, despite its own problems with food supplies, will send grain to Syria to ease the impact of sanctions and the political crisis.
"I think most of it will be done via the black market," a trader said.
Other sources in European grain trading centers and the Middle East concurred. "It's a given that Iran will help Syria," said a grains dealer in western Europe. "But it won't be on the radar. It will be a bilateral agreement between them."
Grains traders said Iran would also help Damascus by turning a blind eye to its private merchants re-selling wheat to Syria.
Iran could get supplies to Syria through trucks via Iraq or Turkey. Shipments could also be routed through Iraqi or Turkish ports and then to Syria.
(Cross-posted from Syria and Beyond Live Coverage)
1052 GMT: Picture of the Day. Payvand posts a series of photos of relatives and activists celebrating the birthdays of nine political prisoners --- Nasrin Sotoudeh, Majid Tavakkoli, Bahman Ahmadi Amooei, Abdollah Momeni, Hassan Naeilmipour, Saeid Malekpour, Bahman Sadeghi Nour, Mehdi Khodaei, and Massoud Pedram:
1047 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Iran Human Rights Voice claims "a large number of people" have been arrested in West Azerbijan, especially in Tabriz and Oroumieh, amid protests over the drying of Lake Oroumieh.
1037 GMT: Parliament v. President. Parliament has put down a challenge to the Government over its budget, cancelling a transfer of 1.15 trillion Toman (about $925 million at official rate) from the Ministry of Health to the Ministry of Roads on the grounds that it is illegal.
Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani has pressed the Government over its repeated delays in the second phase of its subsidy cuts, sending across a revised bill. MP Ahmad Tavakoli, an ally of Larijani, has said the second phase should be put in place immediately rather than at the end of the Iranian year (March 2013), with a sudden surge in energy prices.
Nabavi was sentenced in November 2009 to four years in prison for disturbing public order and collusion and assembly against national security".
Austrian Airlines has already reacted, stopping its flights.
0800 GMT: The Oil Squeeze. Italian oil company Eni, which has been receiving payments in oil from Iran to cover more than $1 billion that it is owed by Tehran, is reworking the deal and is unlikely to continues imports after European Union sanctions on Tehran take effect on 1 July, according to market sources.
"Even though Eni is able to continue importing cargoes, because of the sanctions there are other details it needs to organise," said a person with knowledge of the deal.
Eni spokesmen declined to comment.
Eni's chief executive Paolo Scaroni had said in March that Iran still owed the company $1.0-1.4 billion worth of oil, and that it had a special exemption enabling it to continue receiving that crude despite the EU embargo.
Salehi said India's oil demand was increasing and they should be looking for reliable supplier of energy source....Dr Salehi said his country would be very happy to remain a reliable source of energy for India. Pointing out that there was six billion trade between India and Iran, he said there was a scope for more. "There is so much India can offer to Iran," he said.
Indian Foreign Minister S M Krishna maintained New Delhi's polite public line, ""In a globalized world, sanctions decided unilaterally or regionally can have an impact on the markets. Such measures should not impact on legitimate trade interests....We rely on imports for our bulk energy needs, and in this context, Iran is the key country for our energy needs."
Away from the press conferences, however, India has reportedly reduced its imports of Iranian oil by 15-20% this year, with one major refiner stopping purchases altogether.
0705 GMT: Intimidation Watch. Radio Farda, the US Government-funded service, claims that Iran's Ministry of Intelligence is interrogating relatives of its journalists in sessions that "sometimes lasted for several hours".
The interrogators reportedly warned family members against further contact with the Radio Farda Staff. In several cases they demanded that families tell the employees family members to tell their relatives to resign from their jobs and return to Iran; in one instance they demanded that a specific series of reports be discontinued.
The interrogations have taken place in Tehran and at least six other Iranian towns and cities.
Earlier this year, BBC Persian reported a similar pattern of interrogation and intimidation. In one case, a family member was detained so the Ministry of Intelligence could question a BBC staffer, based in London, via Internet.
Oil output by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries rose in May to the highest level since 2008 as Saudi Arabia pumped crude at the fastest pace in at least 23 years....
OPEC production gained 20,000 barrels to an average 31.595 million barrels a day in May from a revised 31.575 million in April, according to the survey of oil companies, producers and analysts. Output increased to the highest level since October 2008. The April total was revised 170,000 barrels a day higher.
Saudi Arabia, OPEC’s biggest producer, bolstered output by 80,000 barrels to 9.9 million barrels a day this month, the highest level since at least January 1989.
The price for Brent crude oil fell on Thursday to $101.87, its lowest mark since 4 October.
0520 GMT: We start on the Syrian front or, to be precise, the presentation of Syria by Iranian officials and media.
International outlets picked up on President Ahmadinejad's denunciation of last week's killing of at least 108 civilians in Houla, but it would have been profitable to consider who he was blaming for the episode. Press TV fills in the gap in its top story this morning:
A Syrian government investigation into the massacre that recently killed more than 100 people in the western Syria village of Houla has blamed anti-Damascus armed groups for the killings.
The head of the inquiry, Brigadier General Qassem Jamal Suleiman said during a news conference in the Syrian capital on Thursday that between 600 and 800 armed terrorists used heavy machinery to carry out the attacks on the village on May 25.
The fatalities included dozens of women and children.
"It appears that all the victims came from peaceful families who refused to rise up against the government or take up arms, but had rows with armed groups," the General stated, adding that facts and evidence showed the victims had been killed at close range.
There were no traces of burns or other evidence that could indicate that artillery bombing by Syrian forces had led to the massive loss of life, he further noted.
The general went on to say that the grizzly massacre had been carried out in an attempt to “eliminate the presence of the government [in the area] totally and turn it into a region out of government control."
"Killing children does not meet any goal of the government but those of the armed groups," he pointed out, insisting that Syrian troops did not enter the area before or after the incident.
Press TV makes no reference to the mass of evidence, such as eyewitness accounts from residents of Houla, that points to shelling and attacks by pro-regime men as the cause of the deaths.
It does, however, have a "good news" story about politics:
In Syria, several newly established political parties and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) have joined to form a coalition....
“I announce the formation of the coalition of the national and democratic parties. The aim of our national coalition is to start serious work with all Syrian parties to overcome the unrest through dialogue,” the Syrian Solidarity Party’s Imad al-Katib said.
While underlining the importance of Syria’s unity, independence, and national sovereignty, the coalition says it aims at helping build a nationally democratic nation.
The coalition said that it would work with all parties in order to solve the crisis in Syria. They also rejected violence and all foreign intervention in the country.