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The Latest from Iran (4 July): "Neither Side Understands the Other" in Nuclear Talks

See also The Latest From Iran (3 July): Beyond the Propaganda, Nuclear Talks in Istanbul Today

2054 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Journalist Ali Moslehi was arrested in Kashan today.

2046 GMT: Excuse of the Day. Earlier today (see 1103 GMT) we reported on the curious episode where State TV's website suddenly pulled a poll when 63% of respondents favoured giving up enrichment of uranium if sanctions would be relieved. Well, here comes the explanation....

Iran's state TV is charging the BBC with hacking its website to change the results of a poll about Iran's nuclear program....

The TV report Wednesday said the actual figure who favoured suspension of enrichment] was 24 percent, and the rest favored retaliation against the West with measures like closing the strategic Strait of Hormuz, a key to exporting oil from the Gulf.

1737 GMT: Foreign Affairs Watch (Syrian Front). After a meeting with the visiting Syrian Speaker of Parliament, head of judiciary Sadegh Larijani has expressed support for President Assad, “All know that what is happening in Syria is due to its resistance against the Zionist regime. One of the problems of today’s world is the West's double-standards on various issues such as human rights and rights of nations.”

Larijani said he was pleased with the regime's declarations of a new constitution and elections, while continuing his criticism of others in the region, “Certain neighboring states defend the opposition groups in Syria at a time that not a single election has been held in those countries.”

1730 GMT: Clerical Intervention. Grand Ayatollah Sane'i puts out his latest criticism of the Government, even as it professes religious devotion: "The 12th Imam did not fill prisons."

1726 GMT: The Battle Within. The pro-Ahmadinejad newspaper Iran has launched an attack on former President Hashemi Rafsanjani and "Hashemism" for causing the Islamic Republic's "failures and disabilities".

1718 GMT: Oil Watch. The recovery in Iranian oil shipments to China appears to be at risk, with delivery of millions of barrels on the verge of delay over a dispute between refining giant Sinopec and shipper National Iranian Tanker Company over freight terms.

Because of European Union sanctions, China has turned to NITC for delivery of the 500,000 barrels per day of crude it buys from Iran. The European measure effectively withdrew insurance cover from Chinese shippers.

No vessels have been named to carry the 12 million barrels of crude that China has nominated for loading in Iran in the first 20 days of July, industry sources said.

Tehran's oil shipments to China fell 40% between January and April before rebounding in May.

1705 GMT: Website of the Day. The Supreme Leader's site has posted a multi-coloured graphic documenting US crimes against the Islamic Republic:

1658 GMT: Oil Update. So much for the earlier good news that Kenya is buying Tehran's oil despite sanctions....

Nairobi now says that it is cancelling an agreement to import 4 million tonnes of Iranian crude per year because of international sanctions.

Patrick Nyoike, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Energy, had said this week that the deal would proceed, but he changed course today, "There is an embargo on Iranian oil. We don't want to get involved in the intricacies of international inter-governmental issues."

Earlier on Wednesday, Britain had urged Kenya to reconsider its purchase of up to 80,000 barrels of oil per day.

1514 GMT: Oil Watch. Industry and government sources have confirmed that Japan will not import any Iranian oil in July, as buyers avoid any risk of running foul of European Union sanctions targeting insurance of tankers.

South Korea is also halting its imports after the new EU measures took effort on Sunday. In May, Japan and South Korea imported a combined 256,000 barrels per day, worth over $750 million per month at current oil prices.

1318 GMT: Tough Talk of the Day. Minister of Defense Ahmad Vahidi, at the conclusion of three days of military exercises which included test firing of missiles: "Those who make useless remarks about threatening the Islamic Republic of Iran and have ill intentions toward this country should be ready for a crushing response."

1103 GMT: Nuclear Watch. A curious story amid the latest nuclear talks....

State TV's website ran a poll yesterday:

What method do you prefer for facing the unilateral Western sanctions against Iran?

1. Giving up uranium enrichment in return of the gradual removal of sanctions
2. Retaliatory measure by closing the Strait of Hormuz
3. Resistance against the unilateral sanctions for preserving nuclear rights

By early evening, Option 1 was winning with 63%, with Option 2 trailing with 20%, and Option 3 with 18%.

The poll then disappeared, replaced by a vote about football.

1100 GMT: Economy Watch. Mohammad-Reza Najafi-Manesh, a member of Iran’s Automotive Part Makers Association, has said that car production fell up to 40% between March and June.

Najafi-Manesh said the industry is being hurt by the Government’s setting of prices for domestic cars.

1007 GMT: Ahmadinejad Watch. Opening a steel plant this morning, President Ahmadinejad has called on Iranians to show "thought, ambition, and hope" in "work and effort to build the country", rather than leaving it to others.

0803 GMT: Making Up the News. Fars headlines, "Bahrain Rulers Beat 11-Year-Old Boy to Make Him Confess": "The Bahraini prison wardens have been beating an 11-year-old boy who has recently been arrested to make him confess to participation in anti-government protests."

The case of Ali Hassan, arrested on 14 May, is a serious one --- we have covered it extensively on EA --- but Fars is a bit behind on developments. Hassan, who still faces trial for "participating in an illegal assembly", was moved from prison to a juvenile detention centre and then released in mid-June.

0755 GMT: Tough Talk of the Day. Revolutionary Guards Commander Amir Ali Hajizadeh has declared that the Guards have detailed contingency plans to hit 35 US bases in the region in a conflict.

"We have thought of measures to set up bases and deploy missiles to destroy all these bases in the early minutes after an attack," Hajizadeh said. "All these bases are within the reach of our missiles. Meantime, the occupied lands (Israel) are good targets for us as well."

0645 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran publishes its interview with cleric and blogger Arash Honarvar Shojayee, who returned to prison on 30 June after a short furlough and will be tried on 11 July for “propagating falsehoods with the intent to create public anxiety”.

Shojayee was arrested in October 2010 and initially sentenced to four years in prison, 50 lashes, a fine of $800 in cash fines, and lifetime defrocking on charges of espionage, propaganda against the regime, actions against national security’ and disrespecting the clergy. He told the ICHRI:

Two days after my arrest, they arrested my wife, too. In order to arrest my wife, they had raided her father’s house. My father-in-law never recovered from the shock of these actions and his daughter’s arrest; a short while later he had a heart attack and died. They kept my wife in solitary confinement for four days. Everyday they brought her to my interrogation sessions as a way to threaten me. They told me, "We will snatch your wife from you." They told me that they had arrested my brother. All these news and the fact that I was not allowed to contact my family for eight whole months, it was very hard.

They put handcuffs and footcuffs on me and they would attach them together; then they would keep me for long periods of time during the coldest nights of the winter in the fresh air area of Ward 209 at Evin. I received a blow to my head that led to my developing epilepsy as is evident in my medical records. I was threatened numerous times that if I didn’t confess, I would be executed. They said, "We will hang you ourselves.”

0605 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. There is concern over prominent literary translator Mohammad Soleimani Nia, who is missing just weeks after being released from Evin Prison.

"A source close to" Soleimani Nia said he has not been seen since he responded to a call from authorities last Wednesday to go to Evin and retrieve personal belongings that had been confiscated.

Soleimani Nia was detained in January and released on bail after a 28-day hunger strike.

0555 GMT: Nuclear Watch. There has been no reaction so far to the Istanbul technical talks from Iranian leaders or State media. IRNA does not mention the discussions directly, instead featuring the call of a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman to continue dialogue. Press TV is completely silent.

Fars, linked to the Revolutionary Guards, skips the talks for a lead story --- supposedly based on a conference in Washington --- of "a welcome admission of the doubts over the effectiveness of sanctions".

0525 GMT: Back to the technical talks on Tehran's nuclear programme in Istanbul, where the Iranian and 5+1 (US, UK, France, Germany, China, Russia) delegations were in discussions until 1 a.m.

The two sides agreed on further exchanges between Iran's deputy nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri and the European Union's Helga Schmid, but beyond this, there were few signs of advance --- the meeting mentioned only "charting next steps and continuing discussions".

A well-placed Iranian officials summarised the sentiment on both delegations, ""Sometimes I think that neither side understands each other."

Limited information indicated no change in positions from the May and June stalemates at formal political talks in Baghdad and Moscow. The 5+1 group focused on demands that Iran stop enriching uranium to 20% and close its second  enrichment facility at Fordoo. They continued to refuse any significant concession on sanctions against Tehran. 

The Islamic Republic might accept a deal allowing 5% enrichment inside Iran, with a guaranteed supply of 20% uranium; however, at this point, it is taking the general position that argues that the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty classifies enrichment as an "inalienable right" that it should not be expected to give up.

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