Attorney Nasrin Sotoudeh, released on a 3-day prison furlough on Thursday, with her children Nima and Behraveh
See also Iran Feature: The Week in Civil Society --- A Health Care Crisis, Economic Rumblings, and Election Grumblings br>
Friday's Iran Live Coverage: Regime --- Detained Opposition Leaders Mousavi & Karroubi Committed "Atrocities"
2205 GMT: Fighting over the House Arrests. An interesting twist in the politics around the detentions of opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi....
The story begins with leading conservative politician Habibollah Asgarouladi, who said earlier this month that Mousavi and Karroubi --- both candidates for President in 2009 and both under strict house arrest since February 2011 --- had been honourable men who served the Islamic Republic and were not "seditionists".
Other politicians and clerics, continuing to condemn Mousavi and Karroubi, have pressed Asgarouladi to retract the remarks. Yesterday, the politician responded by saying he would leave his Motalefeh Party if they did not give him support.
Now Ayatollah Hassan Mamdouhi, of the conservative Scholars of Qom, has warned: if Motalefe does not reject Asgarouladi's comments, the clerics will stop co-operation.
1454 GMT: Nuclear Watch. It appears that the Islamic Republic is preparing to close the door on any possibility of resumed nuclear talks if a meeting with the 5+1 Powers is not agreed by the end of January.
The Supreme Leader's senior advisor, Ali Akbar Velayati, puts out the signal:
The positions of the Islamic Republic of Iran regarding the nuclear negotiations were completely clear and precise and these positions were consonant with international law and within the accepted global criteria and framework....
If we look behind the scenes of the negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 [US, Britain, China, Russia, France, and Germany], we see that perhaps some of the countries have a different position, but nonetheless the positions of America and its allies and subjects, in relation to the nuclear issue of Iran, they were alike and they say Iran must not benefit from peaceful nuclear technology.
1444 GMT: Free Elections Watch. Today's spokesman for the regime's riddle --- "We have free elections, but if you speak of free elections, you are aiding the enemy" --- is Yadollah Javani, the head of the Revolutionary Guards' Political Bureau, who writes an article, “Is the Slogan of “Free Election” the Code of Another Sedition?”:
In the remaining five months to the [Presidential] election, a wave both inside and outside the country...has been started by the [seditious[ groups, and they have emphasized the words “free elections” and repeated them.
When the election in Iran is free in the framework of the law and is healthy, why do a number both inside and outside, repeat “the free nature of the election” in the form of a slogan? Does the regime want to hold an unfree election?
1105 GMT: Engineering the Elections Watch. Following the comment of the Supreme Leader's representative Ali Saeedi that it was the "duty" of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps to "engineer" June's Presidential election, Guards commander Hossein Sepehr offers a clarification --- the IRGC does not support any particular candidate, but it has the "duty" to help achieve "maximum participation" in the ballot.
1055 GMT: Monkeys in Space Watch. Beside the nuclear issue, the prevalent theme in State media this morning is that the Islamic Republic will soon send monkeys into space, following by humans aboard an Iranian rocket within four years.
The Director of Iran Space Agency, Hamid Fazeli, has repeatedly promised the space flights since Iran puts worms and a tortoise aboard a satellite in 2011. He said today that "big animals, including chimpanzees, [will be sent] into space in the near future and the next phase of the project is to send human beings aboard a bio-capsule to a specific altitude into the outer space and returning them within less than 30 minutes".
State news agency IRNA provides a helpful photograph:
1045 GMT: Nuclear Watch. First the concilatory words, then the show of defiance --- having highlighted the optimism of Iran's envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, over this week's talks with the IAEA, State media now feature his declaration that Tehran will not suspend uranium enrichment “even for a moment".
0915 GMT: The Battle Within. Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani has reiterated the ban on any merger of ministries, staving off another move by President Ahmadinejad to create "super-ministry" of Infrastructure and allegedly boost his political allies.
Last month Parliament blocked the President's attempt to combine the Ministry of Communications with the Ministry of Transport and Roads, putting his ally Ali Nikzad in charge.
A leaked letter from the Ministry of Education has told teachers to refrain from using any language other than Persian at schools in Kermanshah Province, where the majority of the population speak Kurdish.
The Coordination Council of the Green Path of Hope said that the "provocative" move was a clear breach of the Cnstitution’s Article 15, which designates Persian as the “official and shared language of Iran" but also allows for the use of local languages in press, media, and the education system: “Such actions are against human rights norms, the articles of the constitution, the country’s international obligations, and the will of the majority of Iranians from all ethnicities, languages and religions.”
0725 GMT: Nuclear Watch. On Friday the regime continued to promote the themes of an Islamic Republic withstanding the enemy's economic and psychological assaults, with Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami using the Tehran Friday Prayer to call for "unity" among Government officials and the people, and of a Syria which must be protected from foreign intervention.
However, much of the regime's effort went into the promotion of nuclear talks and a possible agreement.
A high-level delegation from the International Atomic Energy Agency said there had been no advance in discussions on Wednesday and Thursday in Tehran over a protocol for inspections and supervision of nuclear facilities. In contrast, Iran's envoy to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, declared, "We held, in a very constructive friendly environment, talks intensively about all aspects of this [nuclear] matter. I have to say that, we have gone forward.”
Meanwhile, State media emphasised that another round of talks has been agreed for 12 February in Tehran, and it made clear who has set the roadblock to progress, "US Trying to Prevent Iran-IAEA Deal".
Tehran also maintained its line that discussions with the 5+1 Powers (US, UK, France, Germany, China, and Russia) could be re-established. Earlier this week, a tentative agreement for a meeting on 28-29 January in Istanbul was not confirmed by the 5+1, apparently because the Iranians objected to the failure to put sanctions relief on the agenda.
Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said Friday that “the date and venue for the next round of negotiations...are not determined yet", but he insisted that the details would be "determined soon".
He added that the details of the next round of talks between the two sides would be “determined soon.”