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Iran Live Coverage: The Regime Admits the Oil Squeeze

See also Monday's Iran Live Coverage: Threatening the Reformists

2055 GMT: Economy Watch. The Central Bank has put Iran's November rate of inflation at 27.4%, a rise of 1.3% from October and of 5.6% from April.

1527 GMT: Elections Watch. Ali Saeedi, the Supreme Leader's representative to the Revolutionary Guards, has said that it is the duty of the Guards to ensure a "reasonable engineering of the elections".

Saeedi put that duty within the context of the claim that the US is pursuing a "proxy war" against the Islamic Republic.

1353 GMT: All the President's Men. Senior Presidential aide Ali Akbar Javanfekr, summoned back to Evin Prison on Monday from a 12-day hospital stay, has been freed on another furlough after a few hours in detention.

1228 GMT: Economy Watch. Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani has repeated his warning that Iran is in an "economic drought".

Larijani, who has claimed that economic problems are primarily due to Government mismanagement, appeared to swing at President Ahmadnejad, "Corrupt officials cannot combat corruption." The Speaker continued, "Some accused corrupt persons have used their domestic powers and intelligence for their frauds."

1225 GMT: Elections Watch. Mir Mahmoud Mousavi, the brother of detained 2009 Presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, has denied rumours that he will stand in June's contest.

Iranian media, in an effort to show reformist support for the process, have spread the names of a number of reformist figures who are supposedly considering a challenge for the Presidency.

1215 GMT: "Please Vote" Watch. Looks like the Supreme Leader, five months ahead of the Presidential election, has started the campaign to get enough of a turnout to back up regime legitimacy: --- Press TV's summary:

Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei says Iran’s enemies may try to prevent a high turnout in the upcoming presidential election in Iran by causing political, economic and security distractions.

The Leader said on Tuesday that one of the schemes of Iran’s enemies is to prevent a mass turnout in the election by distracting people by creating a political, economic or security incident.

The Iranian nation, however, is too prudent to be deceived by the hostile plots of the enemies or their agents, Ayatollah Khamenei added.

1200 GMT: Nuclear Watch. The Foreign Ministry has linked agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency over inspections to a breakthrough in talks with the 5+1 Powers (US, Britain, France, Germany, China, and Russia) on uranium enrichment.

Spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said, “If we reach an agreement where Iran’s nuclear rights are fully recognized, meaning the right to possess nuclear science and the full nuclear cycle toward peaceful goals, Iran will be ready to take necessary measures to allay concerns expressed by the IAEA."

Mehmanparast was responding to a question about whether the IAEA would be given access to the Parchin military complex and whether Iran would impose any conditions for the visit.

US and European officials have claimed that Parchin hosts a high-explosive container which can be used in the military use of uranium.

An IAEA delegation is due in Tehran on 16 January.

See also Iran Special: 5 Steps for a Breakthrough in the Nuclear Talks

0830 GMT: Imports Watch. A cartoon from Fars crystallises criticism of the Government's policy towards imports --- preferential rates for foreign exchange let in luxury items, falling on top of a man who forlornly hold up a sign, "Medicine", amid shortages of drugs and medical supplies.

0550 GMT: One of the features of Iranian State media is its recurrent declarations that All Is Very Well, despite international sanctions, with the energy sectors. On Monday, Press TV --- extracting carefully from reports in the Western media --- proclaimed, "Japan Refiners Renews Oil Contract" and "Turkey Says Will Extend Iran Oil Deal".

Minister of Oil Rustam Qassemi has been one of the loudest cheerleaders, saying repeatedly that energy production and exports are doing fine. Despite the restrictions, he said, Iran's oil output had increased in 2012 to 4.1 million barrels per day. Qassemi finally admitted last month that sanctions had caused two months of problems for Tehran this summer, but he quickly added that exports had soon recovered and were projected to rise farther.

Yesterday, however, the Minister slipped. He told a Parliamentary commitee that oil exports were in fact down 40%, with revenue falling 45%, from March to December. MPs, rather than keeping the statement behind closed doors, passed the revelation to journalists.

The Minister of Economy had also lapsed in the autumn, with the admission of a 50% fall in exports, and the head of Parliament's National Security Committee, angered with the Ahmadinejad Government, had let out the reality of an even sharper collapse in sales. This, however, was the Minister of Oil --- and former commander in the Revolutionary Guards --- who has supposedly been leading Iran to victory over the sanctions of its enemies.

Press TV has no news of Qassemi's statement this morning. Instead, it headlines, "215 Oil Projects Underway in Iran".

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