Former Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjani, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, and Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi at the summit of the Non-Aligned Movement this morning
1630 GMT: Summit Watch. We have already noted that Iranian media have censored Egyptian President Morsi's remarks on Syria (see 1520 GMT). Now it appears that outlets are re-writing the speech....
Khabar Online claims that Morsi issued a warning of "sedition" against the Syrian people and said all should hope that the "popular" regime remains in power.
There is also scepticism over the headline of Fars that Morsi, soon after his provocative statement at the Non-Aligned Movement's summit criticising "bloodshed" in Syria and supporting the opposition to the "oppressive" regime, "Egypt Thinks of Iran as a Strategic Partner".
1610 GMT: Nuclear Watch. We are waiting for the text of the International Atomic Energy Agency's latest report on Iran's nuclear program to be leaked. Meanwhile, take-away lines have been given to the media.
Bloomberg highlights a 31% increase in the stockpile of 20% enriched uranium between February and May, reaching a total of 189.4 kilogrammes (417.6 pounds).
The IAEA continues to report that it has not detected any diversion of material to military programmes; however, it offers the escape clause for those wishing to play up Tehran's threat, "The agency is unable to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran, and therefore to conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities."
Other media are emphasizing a near-doubling of centrifuges at the Fordo facility, declared in September 2009, from 1064 to at least 2088 in June, although the devices are not yet operational.
The number of centrifuges at Iran’s first enrichment plant in Natanz fell to 9,156 from 9,330 in May.
The IAEA also said that Iran had "significantly hampered" its ability to inspect the Parchin military site, which the Agency wants to enter to see if there are high-explosive containers, by "sanitising" it.
1520 GMT: Summit Watch (Censorship Edition). An important example of the Government-commanded media coverage of the Non-Aligned summit....
Most of Iran's Persian-language media and Press TV do not refer to Egyptian President Morsi's remarks on Syria, although they feature his meeting with President Ahmadinejad and Fars discusses his "new approach to explain the make-up of the world".
There are two interesting exceptions, however. While Fars' English-language edition does not directly feature Morsi's comments, it does headline Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem's criticism of the "clear interference" of Morsi's declaration of "the struggle of the Syrian people against an oppressive regime".
And Baztab, run by a former ally of Secretary of the Expediency Council Mohsen Rezaei, not only carries Morsi's comments in full but claims that Iranian translators replaced the word "Syria" with "Bahrain" to blunt his remarks about Damascus.
1510 GMT: Summit Watch (Good News Edition). At the start of today, we noted that "news about the Non-Aligned Movement's summit on Iranian media was beyond tedious". Now we know the reason why, thanks to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty:
A three-page directive issued by Iran’s Culture Ministry and obtained by RFE/RL gives precise instructions on what the country's media outlets should be covering during the event and, perhaps more tellingly, what they should not.
They shouldn't: write stories that undermine the summit; give voice to opposition political groups; write stories about human rights in Iran; cover Western allegations against Syria; raise concerns about security in Tehran; report on warnings about bad weather, natural disasters, energy cuts, or crime.
Media are left, however, with ample room for coverage that ensures the protection of Iran’s "national interests" and reinforces the country's "growing role in international affairs."
They are free to publish stories that hold the country and its leaders in a "positive" light and that highlight Iranian hospitality and its Islamic traditions, for example. And they are expected to reserve special coverage for stories that support Iran's controversial nuclear program, to condemn the West's "unlawful" sanctions, and to criticize Israel, which the document refers to as the "fake and Zionist regime."
Other recommendations include placing emphasis on messages by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, highlighting the importance of the NAM as the second-largest international organization after the United Nations, emphasizing the prominent role that Iran will play in regional and international affairs as head of the NAM, and the technological and scientific progress Iran has made despite "terrorist attacks".
1240 GMT: Summit Watch. Is this payback for United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon's tough talk when he saw the Supreme Leader yesterday? Press TV headlines,"Leader Raps UNSC [UN Security Council] ‘Flagrant Dictatorship'":
Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei says the US and its allies abuse the “illogical, unjust and completely undemocratic” structure of the UN Security Council to impose their bullying on the world.
“This is a flagrant form of dictatorship, which is antiquated and obsolete and whose expiry date has passed,” Ayatollah Khamenei said during an inaugural speech to the 16th Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit in Tehran on Thursday.
The Leader added that the US and its accomplices protect the interests of the West in the name of “human rights”, interfere militarily in other countries in the name of “democracy” and target defenseless people in villages and cities with their bombs and weapons in the name of “combating terrorism”.
Ayatollah Khamenei said torture and assassination are condoned if they are carried out by the US, the Israeli regime and their puppets.
Meanwhile, reports are circulating that Ban Ki-moon's photographer was banned from entering sensitive areas of the Secretary General's visit because of "relations with Western spy services".
1230 GMT: Summit Watch. Reports indicate Egyptian President Morsi has left Iran after a 7-hour stay, meeting Mahmoud Ahmadinejad but not the Supreme Leader.
Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian said, "They emphasized the need to solve the Syria crisis via diplomacy and to prevent foreign intervention. They also discussed ways to boost the level of Tehran-Cairo relations."
Student Basij militia groups have already asked Morsi to "reconsider his stance" on Syria, after this morning's address by the President supported the opposition challenge to the "oppressive regime" of President Assad.
1216 GMT: Nuclear Watch. Western officials use the Wall Street Journal to put out the latest scare story on Iran's nuclear programme, to the point of trying to overturn the estimate of Tehran's capabilities which has been in place of 2007:
The Iranian scientist considered Tehran's atomic-weapons guru until he was apparently sidelined several years ago is back at work, according to United Nations investigators and U.S. and Israeli officials, sparking fresh concerns about the status of Iran's nuclear program.
Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, widely compared with Robert Oppenheimer, the American physicist who oversaw the crash 1940s effort to build an atomic bomb, helped push Iran into its nuclear age over the past two decades. A senior officer in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, he oversaw Iran's research into the construction and detonation of a nuclear warhead, Western officials say.
Mr. Fakhrizadeh complained in 2006 that his funding and nuclear-weapons work had been frozen by Iran's government, according to intercepted email and phone calls, U.S. officials said. The intercepts contributed to a 2007 U.S. intelligence report that concluded Iran had halted its attempts to build a nuclear bomb in 2003.
Today, however, the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, believes Mr. Fakhrizadeh has opened a research facility in Tehran's northern suburbs involved in studies relevant to developing nuclear weapons. The offices include some of the same scientists and military staff active in Iran's previous nuclear-weapons research, said intelligence officials who have seen intelligence on the facility.
A number of Mr. Fakhrizadeh's closest colleagues have risen up the ranks of the Iranian bureaucracy in recent months, placing them in positions to influence the future of Iran's nuclear program. Among them is Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani, who heads the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran and is one of the country's vice presidents.
The apparent re-emergence of Mr. Fakhrizadeh comes as international diplomatic efforts to contain Tehran's nuclear program have stalled and as Israel threatens military strikes. It also calls into question the conclusion by the 2007 U.S. National Intelligence Estimate that Iran had frozen its nuclear-weapons program.
And Julian Borger of The Guardian puts out the spin on the latest International Atomic Energy Agency report, to be released later today:
[The report] is expected to say that Tehran has rapidly increased the quantity of equipment at an underground uranium enrichment plant but has not started using the new machinery to produce nuclear fuel.
The IAEA quarterly report will say that more than 300 centrifuges have been installed at the fortified cavern at Fordow, near the city of Qom, but are not yet spinning, and the rate of uranium production has not risen since the last report in May.
The IAEA inspectors will also complain about Tehran's lack of cooperation with their investigation into alleged past Iranian nuclear weapons work. Attention will be drawn in particular to its refusal to allow them into a suspect site at Parchin, where satellite images show buildings being bulldozed and covered with earth in what IAEA officials believe is an attempt to "sanitise" the area of incriminating trace elements.
0855 GMT: Campus Watch. The head of the Basij milita, Mohammad Reza Naqdi has said the Non-Aligned Movement summit is a testament to the "defeat of Western humanities", in which "today's university curricula are no different from ignorance".
0845 GMT: Summit Watch. Al Jazeera reports that the Syrian delegation walked out during Egyptian President Morsi's speech, with its denunciation of "bloodshed" and implied support for the challenge to the Assad regime.
Press TV prefers to ignore the incident for more cheerful news: "Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi says his country supports the right to peaceful use of nuclear energy by all countries in the world."
0745 GMT: Summit Watch. Perhaps all's well that ends well:
In his speech, Ahmadinejad spoke of the "brotherly country of Egypt" and said he was "sincerely thankful" to the "respected President".
Some of the impact may have been lost through mis-translation, whether this was unintentional --- "At their moment of glory Iran government can't get their translation in order, even Ahmadinejad complaining" --- or deliberate.
0709 GMT: Summit Watch. Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi is now speaking, and he may have punctured Iran's balloon of expectation about his visit:
Morsi did support the Supreme Leader's call for reform of the United Nations --- understandably, since Egypt is looking for a bigger role for countries beyond the "Big 5" of the US-UK-France-Russia-China on the Security Council.
0654 GMT: Sanctions Watch. Reuters reports, from new documents, how South African telecommunications company MTN arranged procurement of embargoed U.S. technology products for its Iranian subsidiary, circumventing US sanctions:
Hundreds of pages of internal documents reviewed by Reuters show that MTN employees created presentations for meetings and wrote reports that openly discussed circumventing U.S. sanctions to source American tech equipment for MTN Irancell. The documents also address the potential consequences of getting caught.
MTN is in talks with US Treasury for permission to repatriate millions of dollars of profits now held up in Iran by sanctions. Meanwhile, an elite South African police unit is investigating how MTN obtained the Iranian telecom's license, following corruption allegations made by a Turkish rival in a US lawsuit in federal court.
Johannesburg-based MTN Group is Africa's largest telecom carrier, with operations in more than 20 countries. It owns 49% of MTN Irancell, a joint venture with a consortium controlled by the Iranian Government. The South African company provided the initial funding for the venture and oversaw the telecom's launch in 2006.
0648 GMT: Detention Watch. The US State Department has punctuated news of the Non-Aligned Summit with the note that Wednesday was the first anniversary of the detention of American citizen Amir Hekmati, initially sentenced to death for espionage:
Today marks one year since Iranian authorities detained U.S. citizen Amir Hekmati. We are relieved that Iran’s Supreme Court overturned the death sentence verdict, but remain troubled by Mr. Hekmati’s lack of legal rights and Iran’s continued refusal to allow consular access by Swiss authorities, the United States’ protecting power in Iran.
Mr. Hekmati now has spent a year in prison on charges that are categorically false, and he endured a closed-door trial with little regard for fairness and transparency. We remain concerned over reports of Mr. Hekmati’s health condition in prison and urge the Iranian government to release him so that he may be reunited with his family.
In the recent past, we have been witness to the failure of the policies of the Cold War era and the unilateralism that followed it. Having learnt lessons from this historical experience, the world is in transition towards a new international order and the Non-Aligned Movement can and should play a new role...[in a new world order based on the] participation of all nations and equal rights for all of them.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Leader's office keeps up the stream of messages, "[Nuclear weapons] neither ensure security, nor do they consolidate political power, rather they are a threat to both. Elimination of catastrophic weapons of mass destruction is an urgent necessity & a universal demand."
Control room of the world should not be managed by dictatorial will of a few western countries. USA & its accomplices protect the interest of the West in the name of "human rights". They interfere militarily in other countries in the name of "democracy".
Based on their belief, human life is considered cheap in Asia, Africa & Latin America. Torture & assassination are permissible & completely ignored if carried out by America, the Zionists & their puppets.
0625 GMT: Summit Watch. The Supreme Leader has opened his speech to the Non-Aligned Summit by declaring, "We are glowing to blow new life into the Non-Aligned Movement....Nations should establish relations "not on the basis of fear, threat, greed...but on wholesome common interests".
There is also --- following Wednesday's meeting with United Nations head Ban Ki-Moon --- a shot at the UN Security Council as an "illogical, unjust, and completely undemocratic structure and mechanism".
0620 GMT: Summit Watch. More via Barbara Slavin from the conference hall, "Supreme leader arrives at summit with Rajsanjani close and Ahmadinejad farther away. Ban Ki Moon enters the NAM summit now running 90 mins late. Ban followed by Hamid Karzai also spot [Indian Prime Minister] Singh and Syrian FM Mualem. Zimbabwe's Mugabe and North Korea's Kim shake hands at Iran summit while Ban Ki Moon chats with Morsi."
0600 GMT: For most of Wednesday, news on Iranian media was beyond tedious. At one point, 19 of the top 20 stories on Khabar Online were on the lines of "Leader X of Country Y has arrived for the Non-Aligned Movement's Summit", a pattern duplicated on Press TV's website.
Then the evening was unexpectedly spiced up by the accounts of the encounter between United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and the Supreme Leader. Far from putting out an anodyne statement, Ban's spokesman presented the Secretary General as a tough-talking messenger insisting that the Islamic Republic co-operate with the International Atomic Energy Agency on nuclear issues, refrain from escalation of the Syrian crisis, answer questions on human rights, and stop vitriolic statements against Israel.
The Supreme Leader's office hit back. Ayatollah Khamenei had criticised the UN as a flawed, ineffective organisation, limited by the US attempt at dominance through the Security Council. Iran must be allowed its right to develop nuclear energy, and foreign powers must stop the arming of Syrian insurgents. Ban's comments on human rights and Israel were handled by a lack of response.
On the surface, then, a far-from-smooth episode in an Iranian script in which the UN Secretary General would hear the Islamic Republic's top figures and endorse their leadership.
Iran will be looking for more from others today, notably Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, who arrived in Tehran an hour ago. Barbara Slavin reports that he entered the conference hall with "a determined serious mien".