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Iran Live Coverage: The Smog Shuts Down Tehran

Tehran skyline on Saturday

See also Iran Feature: The Economy in 2013
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1644 GMT: Foreign Affairs Watch (Turkish Front). The State news agency Anatolia reports that a cargo plane carrying 1.5 tons of gold, currently being held at an İstanbul airport, is en route to Iran.

Turkey has been paying for Iranian natural gas with an increase in gold exports of 11,000% in 2012.

The Airbus A-300, owned by a Turkish private company, landed at Atatürk Airport for refuelling and personnel reshuffle on 1 January. It reportedly flew from an African country, possibly Ghana, with a listed destination of Dubai.

The plane is currently locked, with its front door and cargo gate sealed and a special security team on guard. Anatolia said the plane will depart after the necessary documents are presented.

1451 GMT: The Battle Within. Hossein Shariatmadari, the editor of the hard-line Kayhan newspaper, has continued his attacks on the Ahmadinejad camp, claiming that people are "dissatisfied with the deviance" of the Government.

1351 GMT: The Battle Within. Aftab, seen as sympathetic to former President Hashemi Rafsanjani, fires a shot at Mahmoud Ahmadinejad --- it publishes the comment of former reformist MP Fatemeh Rake'i, reformist ex-MP that Ahmadinejad is out of control.

1221 GMT: Smog Watch. A source in Tehran updates our opening entry (see 0645 GMT)....

Authorities, after initally announcing a second consecutive "public holiday" closing buildings, did open banks, schools, and government offices. Still, the source says it is among the worst conditions he has ever encounters seen.

The source says part of the cause is a lack of wind and precipitation but adds significantly that the pollution has increased since Iran started producing its own low-quality gasoline amid international restrictions on its energy sector.

1220 GMT: A Death in Detention. Parliament has concluded its discussion of the report on the death in detention of blogger Sattar Beheshti with the injunction, "It is necessary that the responsible agencies...exercise more supervision and seriousness with regard to these bitter events and carry out a special inquiry."

The report also recommended training for all staff in detention units, installation in detention centers of CCTV equipment, and the regular inspection of facilities.

1000 GMT: A Death in Detention. The report on the death of blogger Sattar Beheshti, during interrogation in prison on 3 November, is finally being read on the floor of Parliament.

A paragraph on the reason for Beheshti's demise was removed, amid heated disputes among MPs. The report had said "the most likely cause of death was shock brought on by a blow or blows to sensitive parts of the body or mental distress".

Beheshti's family claim the blogger, detained on 30 October by cyber-police for his criticism of the regime, was abused. Iranian officials initially denied any wrong-doing --- claiming at different points that Beheshti suffered from heart disease and that he perished from shock and/or exhaustion --- but finally admitted that he had been beaten, although they still maintain that this did not kill him.

0911 GMT: All-Is-Well Alert. Deputy Minister of Agriculture Jahangir Pourhemmat has declared "eye-catching growth" in exports, with pistachio and saffron sales almost doubling.

Pistachio exports doubled to $587 million between March and December, while sales of saffron rose 87% to $213 million.

"Export of farming products has increased 15% compared to the previous year, while the agricultural exports are still on the increase on a daily basis," Pourhemmat said. "Over 95% of Iran's needed products are produced inside the country which is highly important for the country's political independence."

Pourhemmat said sales of tomatoes, potatoes, watermelons, kiwi fruit, and apples had all grown significantly.

0711 GMT: Parliament v. President. The fight over President Ahmadinejad's proposed second phase of his subsidy cuts programme continues.

Despite a Parliamentary statement that the second stage --- originally planned for late 2011 --- could not proceed, Ahmadinejad's office declared last week that the President was meeting with Ministers for implementation.

Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani has hit back in an interview with Iranian Students News Agency. He reiterated that the Majlis should not bow to Ahmadinejad's pressure and asked how Iranians could afford the soaring price of petrol from another round of subsidy cuts.

0705 GMT: Foreign Affairs Watch (Turkish Front). Iran's mixed feelings about Turkey continue. Press TV praises the Turkish Minister of Economy for his declaration that Ankara's purchases of Iranian natural gas with gold will continue.

In contrast, Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast, returning from Turkey, dismissed Ankara's line that the deployment of Patriot anti-missile systems on the Syrian border is for protection. Instead, Mehmanparast said:

Western countries and the NATO have deployed the system in Turkey with the aim of supporting the Zionist regime so that in case of an Israeli military adventurism against Iran and Iran’s response to the measure, Western countries can safeguard Israel with the help of the missile system.

0645 GMT: Much of the capital Tehran and Tehran Province is shut down for the second day in a row because of air pollution, with schools and Government buildings closed.

Schools in Isfahan and nearby villages are also closed today.

Jason Rezaian of The Washington Post summarised yesterday, "Level of truly shocking. Local radio got it right, saying going outside in the current conditions is suicide. Whatever the cause, no one deserves to have to breathe this."

A Tehran resident replied, "This time I'm nauseous, sick and can't keep my eyes open!", and Rezaian echoed, "Never had a problem with burning eyes before today."

An official with the Environmental Protection Agency said 150 industrial plants had been shut by the smog.

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