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Wednesday
Jan232013

Iran Live Coverage: Ahmadinejad "Don't Buy Our Oil? To Hell With You."

One of a set of photos of the last day of Tehran's Café Prague, closing rather than giving in to an order to install video cameras (see 1713 GMT)

See also Tuesday's Iran Live Coverage: Crisis at the Central Bank?


2123 GMT: Warning of the Day. An interesting moment at the farewell ceremony for Ali Akbar Javanfekr, the resigned director of State news agency IRNA and also a senior Presidential advisor....

Hassan Mousavi, President Ahmadinejad's office manager, said he hoped "Javenfekr would not end up with a dagger in his back in this war".

Javanfekr recently served a six-month prison sentence for "insulting Islam" in a special edition of Iran newspaper, where he was managing editor.

Zendegi News adds that the security office of Iran newspaper has been sealed, apparently after a dispute between old and new members of the Board.

Zendegi claims that new security personnel at the newspaper belonged to the "special current" around Ahmadinejad.

1723 GMT: Executions Watch. Thirty human rights organisations have protested the death sentences against five civil society activists and members of the Ahwazi Arab ethnic minority, urging the authorities to review them and allow due process.

The men were sentenced to death in June. Families were notified on 9 January that the Supreme Court had upheld the punishments. The men were transferred to an undisclosed location on Friday, raising fears that they will soon be executed.

The five men are: Jaber Alboshoka, a private in the military; Mokhtar Alboshoka, a worker at a stone mining company; Hadi Rashedi, a chemistry teacher; Hashem Shabaninejad, an Arabic literature teacher; and Mohammad Ali Amourinejad, an engineer and school teacher. They are all members of the Al-Hiwar scientific and cultural institute, many of whose members were arrested in February 2011.

1713 GMT: A Café Chooses Closure over Surveillance. Tehran Bureau profiles Café Prague, one of the most popular coffee houses in Tehran, which closed down last week after its owners refused authorities' orders to install a video system.

A few weeks ago, Tehran's morality police and security authorities told the proprietors of the café, which is near Tehran University, to install a minimum of four surveillance cameras on the premises as part of State efforts to tighten civic monitoring and security. The owners have written on Facebook:

We always knew this day would come and, in the midst of Tehran's grimy winter, our end has finally arrived in spite of our many attempts to stay afloat.

But as much as it pains us and as much as we will miss our friends and all of you who stood by our side in the past four years, we take comfort in knowing that we at least didn't let Big Brother's glass eyes scan and record our every step, minute and memory from dawn till dusk.

1530 GMT: Nuclear Watch. While Iran puts out the spin that it is proposing dates and venues to get the 5+1 Powers (US, Britain, France, Germany, China, and Russia) into nuclear talks, the Western side is putting out the spin that Tehran is stalling.

“The E3+3 are still hoping to reach agreement with Iran on the modalities of the talks, including venue, with a view to resuming talks shortly,” a spokesperson for European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said. “We have been very surprised to see Iran come back to us again and again with new pre-conditions on the modalities of the talks, for example by changing the venue and delaying their response."

The spokesperson asserted that Ashton, on behalf of the 5+1, “proposed concrete dates and venue in December". He continued, “We have always been very flexible and have been in regular contact with them as part of an ongoing process.”

1410 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. The International Committee for Human Rights in Iran summarises latest developments with political prisoners.

These include the end of lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh's four-day furlough and temporary leaves for other detainees, such as student activist Bahareh Hedayat; journalists Bahman Ahmadi Amouee, Ahmad Zeidabadi, Mahsa Amrabadi, and Massoud Bastani; and lawyer Mohammad Ali Dadkhah.

1340 GMT: The Battle Within. Quds Online reports that some MPs have protested against a secret meeting of Government officials with the Supreme Leader and other legislators over the budget for 2013/2014.

BBC Persian names one of the protesting MPs as Javad Karimi Qodusi and says Deputy Speaker of Parliament Mohammad Hassan Abutorabi Fard was one of the legislators in the meeting.

Karimi Qodusi said, "All MPs should know what commitments have been given to the Government."

An EA correspondent offers the analysis, "Ayatollah Khamenei's entrance into Majlis-Government matters points to the serious conflict within the system."

1218 GMT: Foreign Affairs Watch (Russian Front). Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has issued a clear warning to Israel against "military or isolationist measures" against Iran.

At the same time, Lavrov encouraged Tehran to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency over inspections of its nuclear sites.

1208 GMT: Nuclear Watch. Back from an academic break to find Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi suggesting that the next talks with the 5+1 Powers (US, Britain, France, Germany, China, and Russa) could be in Cairo in mid-February.

Salehi, quoted by the State news agency IRNA, said Egypt has welcomed the offer and is now consulting with the 5+1 Powers to confirm an agreement.

The last high-level negotiations between Iran and the 5+1 were in June 2012 in Moscow. Earlier this week, Iranian officials were on the verge of announcing talks on 28-29 January, probably in Istanbul, but the US and European powers refuse to confirm the date and venue.

1008 GMT: Engineering the Election Watch. This looks like the big move of the Supreme Leader's camp for the "right" result in June's Presidential election....

We have been watching closely the work of a three-man committee --- the Supreme Leader's top advisor Ali Akbar Velayati, Tehran Mayor Mohammad-Baqer Qalibaf, and Gholam Haddad Adel, leading of the Principlist faction in Pa5rliament --- seeking "unity" in the ballot.

Now Velayati has openly declared:

A strong government is a collection of able individuals, who are directed by a strong manager. On this basis we three individuals comprising this coalition, who in the future election in the form of a single, harmonious and coordinated team, will offer ourselves and in truth, enter the electoral fray for people to vote for one team.

Velayati emphasised that the trio had met leading politicians and clerics, saying, "In our view no important political movement can be undertaken in the country without relation to the clergy."

But this still leaves the question: who will be the "unity" candidate selected by this committee --- one of the three men involved, or an option such as Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani?

0932 GMT: Missed Opportunity Watch. Revolutionary Guards commander Ahmad Zolqadr expresses regret: "If we had killed [novelist Salman] Rushdie, there would be no films insulting Islam today."

In 1989, Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa for the death of Rushdie over his book The Satanic Verses.

0925 GMT: Cartoon of the Day. Maya Neyestani's drawing for detained husband-and-wife journalists Mahmoud Bahmani and Mahsa Amrabadi --- Bahmani is imprisoned for six years, while Amrabadi is serving a one-year sentence (see more on their cases):

0800 GMT: Rafsanjani Watch. Despite criticism of his call for "free elections", former President Hashemi Rafsanjani has held firm, telling an audience on Tuesday: "There always has been a extremist current in the country which pursue war and is against democracy, even though democracy is the definite future of today’s societies."

Former President Mohammad Khatami, in a meeting with reformists, also criticised the "extremist current", whom said had pressured Ayatollah Khomeini "to create an Islamic State rather than Islamic Republic". He then reiterated the "free elections" line:

What we are after is an Islamic Republic in which a state follows and obeys people and their votes. In an Islamic state, everyone should be able to criticize the officials, even the Supreme Leaders from the Imam [Khomeini] to the current leader.

0755 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Kurdish filmmaker Behrouz Ghobadi has been released from prison.

Ghobadi, the younger brother of film director Bahman Ghobadi, was freed after a campaign on his behalf that included prominent Hollywood directors, actors, and independent filmmakers. He had allegedly been held incommunicado in an undisclosed location since his arrest on 4 November, with his lawyer and his family blocked from seeing him.

Ghobadi is the director of three short films, and he has worked as an executive producer and production manager for six of his brother's films.

0725 GMT: Ahmadinejad and Food Shortages. Speaking to a crowd in Hamedan in western Iran on Tuesday, President Ahmadinejad --- who said last year that sanctions were only "torn pieces of paper, but more recently had acknowledged they were having some effect on the economy --- put out this message of defiance:

Don't buy our oil? To hell with you.

It's better if you don't buy...Ten times more money will head to people's pockets through the inventions of our scientists.

As the President was speaking, Parliament  was voting 139 to 34 for a plan commanding the Government to buy essential food for Iranians. The measure follows reports of shortages of foodstuffs and rumours that the Ahmadinejad administration was going to cut subsidies on essential items such as meat and rice.

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