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Thursday
Jan172013

Iran Live Coverage: Supreme Leader "We Will Not Surrender"

2100 GMT: Nuclear Watch. The two days of talks between the International Atomic Energy Agency and Iranian officials have ended with no news of progress on a protocol for inspections, but with an agreement to resume discussions next month.

Iranian media said the next meeting would be in Tehran on 12 February. The IAEA has made no comment.

2000 GMT: The House Arrests. The children of detained opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi and his wife, activist Zahra Rahnavard, report again that they have been blocked from seeing or calling their parents.

1810 GMT: The House Arrests. Iran Prosecutor General Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei has said that detained opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi --- both of whom were Presidential candidates in 2009 --- cannot run in June's ballot.

Mohseni Ejei said the two men, held under strict house arrest since February 2011, committed "atrocities against the ruling system and the nation".

1800 GMT: Shipping Watch. An Iranian-flagged cargo ship has fled from waters around Sri Lanka after weeks of detention by the island nation's navy, acting on a court order obtained by Germany's DVB Bank SE.

The Sri Lankan navy had fired warning shots to prevent the MV Amina from leaving last week. The ship was detained on 13 December after the German bank accused it of default on a payment of millions of dollars.

The vessel is managed by Tehran-based Rahbaran Omid Darya Ship Management. The European Union and US have said the firm is a front for the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL), which has faced Western sanctions for some years over allegations it transports weaopns.

IRISL officials told Reuters the ship was owned by a private company and could not discuss the matter. Rahbaran Omid Darya Ship Management could not be immediately reached for comment.

1725 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, prominent for her defence of human rights activists and her hunger strike in detention, has been given a three-day furlough from her six-year prison sentence.

Last month Sotoudeh ended her fast, of almost 50 days, over prison conditions and restrictions on detainees' families.

1617 GMT: All-Is-Well Alert. The head of the Revolutionary Guards, Mohammad Reza Jafari, has told Basij militia and Guards that all-is-well for the Islamic Republic's victory:

We are resolute with all the capacities for the accomplishments of the regime and revolution, like in the past we are watchful and we move forward in this path toward bright horizons.

The enemies of the Islamic Revolution are involved in a crisis and they imagine with the transfer of this crisis to other points they can control public opinion in their own nation.

“Shabby, rundown and tested scenarios of the enemies in confrontation with the nation of Iran will only strengthen the pillars of the Islamic Revolution.

1531 GMT: Labour Front. About 400 workers at the Bandar Imam Petrochemical Plant have protested over pay and conditions in front of the Governor's office in Mahshahr in southwestern Iran.

1521 GMT: Religion Watch. The Idaho Statesman writes about the case of Pastor Saeed Abedini, a Christian minister in Boise, who -- having returned to Iran to visit an orphanage and see family members --- was put under house arrest last July and then detained in September.

Iranian authorities have imprisoned several pastors who have converted to Christianity. They face the charge of apostasy, which can carry a death penalty.

1242 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Lawyer Manijeh Bohlouli has been arrested in Miyaneh.

Bohlouli's family claim that, even though they presented the 5 million Tomas (about $4000 at official rate) demanded for bail, authorities refused to release her.

1232 GMT: Parliament v. President. The fallout from Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's appearance in the Majlis, defending his economic programmes, did not take long --- within hours, Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani was claiming that the Supreme Leader has criticised the President for delay in submitting the 2013/14 budget for Parliamentary approval.

0848 GMT: Confession Watch. State TV has broadcast the "confession" of a Western man who said he had spied for the US Central Intelligence Agency.

The nationality of the man, in his 30s and named as Matti Valok, was not given. The programme claimed d he was arrested in August after being kept under surveillance for several months by security services. He was accused of contacting Iranian scientists to seek information on "the country's scientific progress", using a Slovakia-based international recruitment agency that he had created.

"Valok" said he was recruited by a US agent named as Steve Logano.

The programme state channel also showed footage of other claimed spies. It said US citizen Stefan Raymond, born in 1967, and Marc Antony Vandiar, born in South Africa in 1958, worked "for the CIA and tried to garner information on Iranian biotechnology". A Moroccan named as Faisal, a "specialist in information technology", and a Malaysian Christian called Douglas Fernandez also sought to acquire information on the Islamic republic's "scientific, nuclear and military progress".

0823 GMT: Nuclear Watch. As Tehran's talks with the International Atomic Energy continue into a second day, Bloomberg hits back at the theme in most Western media that access to the Parchin military base, the alleged host of a high-explosives container, is the key issue:

United Nations nuclear inspectors...risk undermining their work by focusing too narrowly on winning access to an Iranian military base, according to analysts including a former monitor....

“The IAEA’s authority is supposed to derive from its ability to independently analyze information,” said [Robert] Kelley, who helped uncover forged documents passed on to the agency before the 2003 Iraq war. “At Parchin, they appear to be merely echoing the intelligence and analysis of a few member states.”

0713 GMT: Nuclear Watch. As manoeuvres continue over the resumption of nuclear talks between Iran and the 5+1 Powers (US, Britain, France, Germany, China, Russia), The Washington Post posts a misleading, days-late summary:

Four weeks after agreeing in principle to nuclear talks, Iran has gone silent about its plans for the negotiations, baffling U.S. and European diplomats while also signaling internal discord over what analysts on both sides see as the best chance in years for a nuclear bargain with the West.

Last week Western officials fed this line to Julian Borger of The Guardian and Laura Rozen of Al Monitor; however, Al Monitor's Barbara Slavin got to the heart of the matter on Tuesday --- far from "going silent", Iranian officials were objecting that the proposed agenda showed no movement by the West from its "stop, shut, and ship" proposals from last spring. Nor was there any sign that the US and Europe were ready to discuss significant relief of sanctions.

See also Iran Analysis: The Real Explanation for the Delay in New Nuclear Talks

The Post's reporters --- one in Washington, one in Tehran --- take no notice of Slavin's article, so they post a comment by Seyed Hossein Mousavian, Iran's former nuclear negotiator, without realising its significance:

The problem for the Iranians is not the date; it’s a worry that the meeting will not be successful. They want to have a meeting as soon as possible, but they don’t want to be blamed if there’s another failure.

(Later in the piece, there is a short-lived possibility of insight: "Iran is unlikely to accept a deal that does not include clear timelines for sanctions relief, which would be key to gaining public support for a settlement, Iranian policy­makers and analysts say.")

Nor do the reporters pick up yesterday's reports --- including one that briefly circulated in Iranian media and was then withdrawn --- of an agreement on discussions for 28-29 January. Instead, they turn to their "senior US official": "“They’ve gone to ground. We’re all waiting, and everyone is checking with everyone else, but there’s been nothing at all.”

0613 GMT: Sanctions and No Surrender. Speaking to military personnel on Wednesday, the Supreme Leader declared, "The front of the arrogance has made a maximum use of its efforts and power to force the Iranian nation to surrender to sanctions and pressures, but this nation will tolerate the difficulties since it has understood the enemy's plot and tactic and its strategic goal, and it acts upon its correct understanding and recognition." 

Ayatollah Khamenei said sanctions and pressures have failed to make the Iranian nation give up its cause and support for the "Islamic establishment". He declared that there will be massive participation in marches for the 11 February anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

This, however, is not the interesting part of the speech --- that lies in what Fars does not report and, indeed, in what the Supreme Leader did not say out loud.

Only a few months ago Ayatollah Khamenei, like President Ahmadinejad and most senior officials, was insisting that the US-led measures were having no effect upon the "resistance economy" he proclaimed last March. Now the line is that all will "tolerate the difficulties" brought by "sanctions and pressures".

And so to the Supreme Leader's prediction for June's Presidential election, sent through a reference to its disputed predecessor in 2009:

The enemy thought that a decade of hatching plots against the Islamic Republic has yielded results, but the Iranian nation came to the scene and [punched] international opponents and opposition in the mouth, not to mention domestic mercenaries who are nothing in the face of the greatness of the Iranian nation.

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