Iran Election Guide

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Iran Live Coverage: Nuclear Talks to Resume?

See also Iran Feature: How a Political Prisoner Found Art for Her Activism
Friday's Iran Live Coverage: The Supreme Leader Tries to Bolster His Popularity

2025 GMT: Smog Watch. An official with the Environmental Protection Agency says 150 industrial units in Tehran Province have been shut because of the high levels of air pollution.

1855 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Detained senior reformist Mostafa Tajzadeh, who was taken to hospital earlier today because of a heart condition (see 1535 GMT), has now returned to prison.

1605 GMT: Smog Watch. An image of air pollution in Tehran --- the smog has forced the closure of schools and Government buildings today and tomorrow:

Jason Rezaian, the Tehran correspondent of The Washington Post, writes:

1555 GMT: All-Is-Well Alert. President Ahmadinejad, at a ceremony to inaugurate a gas storage facility, declared today that Iran will double natural gas production from the giant South Pars gas field in the next six months.

Iranian officials have repeatedly said output will soar from South Pars, despite the collapse of foreign investment in its development.

1535 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Opposition site Rah-e Sabz reports that detained senior reformist Mostafa Tajzadeh has been transferred to hospital with heart disease. His family are not being allowed to see him.

Tajzadeh, a former Deputy Minister of Interior, had just sent out a letter warning of another "election coup" by the regime in June's Presidential contest (see 1051 GMT).

1525 GMT: Parliament v. President. The Majlis has forwarded the law prohibiting the merger of ministries to Ahmadinejad.

The legislation is a sharp response to Ahmadinejad's attempt to create a super-ministry of Infrastructure, combining the Ministries of Communications and of Transport and Roads. The proposed head of the new super-ministry, Ali Nikzad, is an Ahmadinejad ally --- some observers speculated that he was being promoting for a run for the Presidency in June.

1350 GMT: Economy Watch. Another MP has pointed to the extent of the economic downturn --- criticising the Government for lack of support of producers, Mehrdad Lahouti has said that 50% of Iran's production capacity is idle.

1130 GMT: Health Watch. First Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi has downplayed the issue of shortages of drugs and medical supplies, which led to last month's dismissal of the Minister of Health Marzieh Vahid Dastjerdi.

Rahimi said there could not be a problem because of the cost of imported medicines, because 97% of them are made in Iran.

Dastjerdi claimed that the shortages were worsened by the Central Bank's refusal to release $2 billion for purchase of imports.

1118 GMT: Cyber-Watch. Iran Police Chief Esmail Ahmadi Moghaddam has said that the Islamic Republic is developing software to control social-networking sites, meaning that they do not have to be blocked: ""The smart control of social-networking sites not only prevents their harm, but also allows people to benefit from their useful parts."

Iran established a Supreme Council of Cyberspace last year to oversee control of the Internet.

1051 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Detained senior reformist Mostafa Tajzadeh has sent a note from prison warning of another manipulated Presidential election.

Tajzadeh, imprisoned soon after the disputed 2009 outcome and serving a six-year sentence, pointed to Ayatollah Jannati, the head of the Guardian Council, and Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi, the leader of the "hard-line" Endurance Front: “The activity of Mesbah, Jannati, and the Commanders of the Revolutionary Guards is a sign of another electoral coup d’etat ahead."

Tajzadeh claimed that the aim of recent statements from these regime figures is "distancing the minds of the people from criticising the absolutist monarchy and petro-military aristocracy”.

1045 GMT: Sedition Watch. Hossein Shariatmadari, the editor of Kayhan, said he knows the real story behind the disputed 2009 Presidential election: “Saudi Arabia sent money for the leaders of the sedition [Presidential candidates Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi] but banking issues were an obstacle to its transfer to Iran."

But the real hero? Shariatmadari continued, “If not for the shadow of [the Supreme Leader], the Revolution would have been defeated 100 times, and we would have seen the country trampled under the feet of foreign militaries…Today our country is in the strongest circumstances since the Rrevolution and the enemy is in the weakest of conditions.”

0805 GMT: Foreign Affairs Watch (Syrian Front). Michael Theodoulou of The National offers an overview of the regime's debate over the Syrian crisis: "Iran Rethinks Its Staunch Support for Assad Regime".

Theodoulou evaluates, "Foreign policy officials in Tehran are urging the ayatollaah to distance Iran from the Syrian president. But Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guards, which have military and business interests in Syria, insist the ayatollah must stand by Mr Al Assad. It is their advice that he is heeding."

0650 GMT: Oil Watch. Turkey, a leading customer for Iran's oil and gas, will no longer publish a breakdown of the source of its energy imports, an official at the country’s statistics office said Friday.

The move came at the request of Turkey’s refining monopoly TUPRAS. “TUPRAS asked us last month not to reveal the origin of our crude oil imports and instead give an overall figure,” the official said. “We were not informed of the reason for the change in policy."

Shipping sources and Reuters indicated on Friday that Turkey's imports of oil from Iran were steady fro September to December, but down more than 60% from early 2012. At the same time, the 11,000% increase in gold transfers from Ankara to the Islamic Republic suggest that Turkey is continuing to pay for significant amounts of Iranian natural gas.

0630 GMT: After a day of sometimes confusing signals, Friday closed with the confirmation that Iran expects nuclear talks with the 5+1 Powers (US, Britain, France, Russia, China, and Russia) to resume later this month.

The initial reports of progress came from a trip to India by Saeed Jalili, Iran's lead nuclear negotiator, when he supposedly told journalists, "We have accepted that these talks should be held in January, but until now, the details [of date and location] have not been finalised."

However, the spokesman for the 5+1 Powers, Michael Mann, responded that he knew of no agreement for a resumption. Perhaps more significantly, Iranian State media did not carry Jalili's statement; instead, they focused on his criticism of the US as "the only nuclear criminal in the world and...the only government which has used nuclear energy and weapons against innocent people". For me, the reticence raised the possibility that Jalili's comments had been mis-reported in Western outlets or that he had gone too far for the regime in his optimism about talks.

Late last night, Press TV finally offered some resolution, posting Jalili's comment from the morning and adding his further declaration, "We welcome their return to talks and we hope that they would enter talks with a constructive approach and would not repeat their previous miscalculations."

The website reinforced the positive message with a quote from Sebastian Brabant, a spokesman for the lead 5+1 Powers negotiator, Catherine Ashton, “They’re negotiating the modalities and the details for the next round to be held very soon."

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