The Iranian official said the Chinese company has had "some difficulties" because "it has not brought its financing"; however, "there is no formal withdrawal from CNPC. It still has staff in Tehran and in Assaluyeh," the southern Iranian port city where the project is being overseen.
A CNPC representative said officials have denied that the company is leaving the project in the South Pars gas field, one of the largest in the world.
In 2009, Tehran signed a $5-billion contract with CNPC to develop the field after the Islamic Republic accused French oil major Total SA of delaying the project. Last year, Iran warned CNPC thatthat it would cancel the contract if delays in developing the field persisted.
1746 GMT: Currency Watch. Tycoon Asadollah Asgharouladi, one of Iran's richest men, has chided the Government for having six effective exchange rates --- official, pilgrimage, imports, exchange office abroad, open market, and "smugglers".
At the start of 2012, the Central Bank attempted a single exchange rate, but the regime failed to shut down the open market. A third rate for imports was added earlier this month.
According to the site, the price of a boned and skinned chicken leg is now 10400 Toman per kilogramme (about $3.20 per kilogramme).
1648 GMT: Espionage Watch. Delhi police have denied an earlier report in The Times of India that their investigation has linked the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps to the February bomb attack on an Israeli diplomat.
A police spokesperson said "no detailed account of the IRGC's complicity in the terrorist attack as mentioned in the report" and denied that details on members of the IRGC had been sought.
The Times of India journalist stood by the report, saying that the five suspects had been tied to Sayed Ali Mahdiansadr of the IRGC.
Meanwhile, Home Minister P. Chidambaram said a Delhi police team will soon go to Iran to "question some suspects" as part of the investigation.
1557 GMT: Picture of Day. Journalist Ahmad Zeidabadi embraces his son after he was released on today on furlough from a six-year sentence:
Journalist Mehdi Mahmoudian, also serving six years, was also granted temporary leave.
1541 GMT: Family Watch. Reinforcing the recent reversal of policy on population control, Zahra Sajjadi, an aide to President Ahmadnejad for women and family affairs has said, "Some think they can be more prosperous with one or two children but the Revolution was not for prosperity."
1353 GMT: All the President's Men. Mohammad Jafar Montazeri, the head of Administrative Court, has emphasised that the verdict against President advisor Saeed Mortazavi --- accused of a role, as Tehran Prosecutor General, in the abuses and killings at Kahrizak detention centre in summer 2009 --- will be final and must be carried out.
President Ahmadinejad has defied an earlier court ruling that Mortazavi's Government duties must be suspended (see 0530 GMT).
1347 GMT: Economy Watch. The head of the Central Bank, Mahmoud Bahmani, has repeated his warning, "Sanctions mean nothing short of military war, and we need to begin a series of irregular economic war policies."
Bahmani made the comment on the sidelines of a meeting on Tuesday with of MPs and economic officials, adding, "We have begun these irregular war policies and have meetings seven days a week in a base that we have established at the Central Bank."
Bahmani said months ago, even as other Iranian officials were claiming that Tehran was flourishing and the West suffering amid the sanctions, that the Islamic Republic faced a situation more serious than that of the 1980s Iran-Iraq War.
1335 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Three members of the Baha'i community in Tehran --- Nasim Ashrafi, Shamis Mohajer, and Zhinous Rahimi --- have been released on bails of $816,000 each.
The three were among about 20 Baha'is arrested in early July in raids in Tehran, Mashhad, and Shiraz.
Mohammadi was re-arrested in April to serve a six-year sentence for propaganda against the regime, actions against national security, and membership of the CDHR. She has reportedly had serious, long-term health problems.
At present, investment in the country's oil industry has amounted to $7.1bln and the world is still eager to invest....Since the very day that investment in (Iran's) oil industry was sanctioned by the westerners, the trend of investment in the oil industry has actually doubled."
In another sign of the Islamic Republic's effort at self-sufficiency, the National Iranian Oil Refining And Distribution Company has announced a halt to imports of "super" gasoline.
The NIORDC claimed the imports would not be necessary because of the new optimization units to improve the quality of output from Iran's refineries.
Several days ago outside the entrance of the Tajrish Bazaar in northern Tehran...Iranians of all socio-economic backgrounds massed in a shapeless clump behind a recently parked semi-truck that had just docked near the bazaar, its backdoors propped wide open. Above hung a banner that loosely translates to “God’s Banquet Project,” a term used widely during the holy month of Ramadan when food is distributed at subsidized prices—or sometimes for free—in keeping with the holy month’s messages of generosity and charity. The truck’s operators were handing out Costco-sized boxes of pre-packaged, frozen chicken.
The crowd, most having no idea how much the chicken cost, where it was from, when it expired, and whether they could buy it in bulk, decided to abandon their daily routine and line up anyway. The mere hint of “4,000 Toman chicken” (referring to the government-advertised 4,700 Toman per kilogram chicken) had attracted droves of curious shoppers who had only a vague idea of what to expect. Information eventually filtered from the ad hoc cashier’s desk down where the line began: the chicken was frozen, of Turkish origin, and required the purchase of an entire 10-piece $35 box all at once.
“You take two, I’ll take three, and you take a few,” bartered one woman, who after learning that the chicken-truck’s operators would only sell the boxes in full, started scheming how to divide the 10-piece set with other ladies waiting around her. Customers hauled their boxes of chicken off to the side, ripping the boxes open like Christmas gifts so they could place their chickens inside plastic bags for easy transport home.
A semi-bearded man who appeared to be in charge of this government-backed pop-up chicken stand explained that the subsidized chicken trucks show up almost at random throughout the city without advance notice. He added, as way of reassurance (though without citing a reason why) that “the price of chicken will lower, don’t worry".
0720 GMT: Cartoon of the Day. Khabar Online reposts a cartoon from the satirical magazine Golagha --- an optometrist presents 1st Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi with the chart, "Inflation, High Prices, Unemployment, Bureaucracy, Housing" and asks, "Still can't see anything?":
0530 GMT: The headline from Iran on Monday was the sentencing of four men to death for their roles in the $2.6 billion bank fraud that has occupied the Islamic Republic's establishment since its revelation last September. Two of the 39 defendants were given life sentences, while the rest were handed prison terms of up to 25 years.
Iran Prosecutor General Gholam-Hossein Mohseni Ejei offers no details of the individuals sentenced, let alone comments on the political significance. Others, however, are likely to calculate the impact upon the auhority of the Ahmadinejad Government and high-ranking officials.
Indeed, in a signal of the political battle over corruption, the head of the judiciary of Tehran Province announced that Mohammad Javad Larijani, a senior official in the Iranian judiciary, is being investigated over an alleged "land grab" in northern Iran. One of Larijani's brothers, Speaker of Parliament Ali, has also been accused in some Iranian media of involvement. And another brother, head of Iranian judiciary Sadegh, has to decide whether he stands aside while the legal and political manoeuvres continue.
To add to the mix, the Administrative Court issued a declaration posing a serious question for President Ahmadinejad, ruling that Presidential aide Saeed Mortazavi cannot head the Social Security Fund. The ruling offers an immediate test of judicial and political authority. Iran's judiciary had barred Mortazavi last year from holding a Government post because of his alleged involvement, as Tehran Prosecutor General, in the abuse and killing of protesters in Kahrizak detention centre after the 2009 Presidential election; however, Ahmadinejad not only retained Mortazavi but named him to the important post at the Fund earlier this year.