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Iran Live Coverage: Tehran Mayor --- Why We Are Engineering the Presidential Election

See also Iran Feature: The Week in Civil Society --- Monkey in Space, Journalists in Prison< /br>
Thursday's Iran Live Coverage: Imprisoned Journalists, Elections, & the BBC

2015 GMT: Free Elections/Sedition Watch. Still 4 1/2 months until the Presidential election, but this was a Friday for many in the regime to throw rhetorical punches at "sedition" --- first, Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami:

Be careful for slogans in the next elections. "Free elections" completes the enemy’s puzzle because all elections have been free and competitive. One should not undermine the achievements of the system by using slogans, so be awake and aware because future seditions will begin with such words.”

Mohammad Hossein Saffar Harandi, the Cultural Deputy of the Revolutionary Guards on people's insight countering sedition: "This revolution took place among a people who are insightful and follow the velayat, and with self-awareness and through following the velayat they have familiarized the world with the revolution.”

Hossein Naghavi of Parliament's National Security Committee on the recent arrests of journalists:

American and British intelligence agencies are attempting to identify information sharing agents in the country and use it against the Iranian nation in a security puzzle through their dependent networks such as BBC and Voice of America, but proper vigilance and awareness and the praiseworthy Intelligence Ministry neutralized this conspiracy.

American and British intelligence agencies have been no match for the Unknown Soldiers of the Imam of the Age [Ministry of Intelligence agents].

1715 GMT: Foreign Affairs Watch (American Front). Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi has wished success to the new US Secretary of State, John Kerry, and expresed the hope that he will change American policy towards Tehran.

1555 GMT: Rafsanjani Watch. Mehdi Hashemi --- the son of former President Hashemi Rafsanjani, free on bail over charges of financial and electoral manipulation --- with Minister of Culture Mohammad Hosseini at the funeral of former Vice President Hassan Habibi.

1535 GMT:Foreign Investment Watch. Schlumberger Ltd, the world's largest oilfield services company, is winding down its long-time operations in Iran this year.

"Schlumberger intends to discontinue such activity in Iran in 2013 and is currently winding down its operations there," the company said in its annual report.

Schlumberger said it had not bid on any new Iranian oilfield work since March 2009, though some non-U.S. affiliates had been doing work for the National Iranian Oil Co or its affiliates. Revenue in 2012 from this work totaled $418 million.

1529 GMT:Press Watch. Almost 200 Iranian journalists both inside and outside the Islamic Republic have signed a statement objecting to the past week's detentions of their colleagues. They asked Iran’s judicial authorities to release the 15 journalists immediately, proving that officials respect the law:

What intensifies our concern is statements made by the Spokesperson for the Judiciary prior to the arrests in which he said that --- according to information he has received from "reliable sources" ---, a group of journalists, in addition to writing for the country’s newspapers, have their hands in the hands of Westerners and anti-revolutionaries.

Our objection is that the Judiciary Spokesperson talks about the planned arrests of the journalists, as if according to the legal procedures, they have been tried in public session courts, with access to defense lawyers, and in the presence of a jury, and have been convicted and now all that is left is the news briefing about them.

“We, journalists, demand the judicial authorities to swiftly release the arrested journalists and to prove that they respect the laws,” the statement adds. On the evening of Sunday, January 27, which the Iranian press community now calls “the Black Sunday,” 11 journalists who worked at Bahar, Shargh, Arman, and Etemad newspapers and Aseman Weekly, were arrested. The previous day, two other journalists had been arrested.

1349 GMT:Economy Watch. Grand Ayatollahs Safi Golpayegani and Nouri Hamedani have expressed concern over the "pressure" on the poorest in Iranian society from inflation and corruption.

1347 GMT:Your Tehran Friday Prayers Update. Hojatoleslam Siddiqui, takes the podium today to call for the public to unify behind the Government and Parliament as they deal with rising inflation, currency problems, and the cost of gold.

The cleric urged all officials in turn to unify behind the Supreme Leader.

Siddiqui also urged global unity amongst Muslims and vigilance regarding the plots of enemies of Islam.

1310 GMT:Journalism Watch. Conservative MP Ali Motahari has criticised the recent arrests of Iranian journalists, stating that they are “depriving reporters of their mental and professional peace.”

Motahari added that creating insecurity in the activities of the press is “not in the interest of the country” and the Press Supervisory Board, of which he is a member, will be looking into the matter.

1246 GMT:Everything’s Fine Watch. The Department of Industries and Mines has declared that there has been $528 billion worth of investment in gold during the past year.

1232 GMT:Foreign Affairs Watch (Munich Conference & Syria Edition). Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi will take part in the 49th Munich Security Conference this Saturday where the crises in Syria and Mali will be high on the agenda.

Meanwhile, Tehran has continued its criticism of yesterday’s Israeli air strike inside Syria.

Mohammad Hassan Asafari, a member of the Majlis Committee on National Security and Foreign Policy, has claimed that Damascus is “entitled to give crushing response to Israel,” while Iran’s Ambassador to Beirut Ghazanfar Roknabadi has said that the attack “has taken the mask off the Syria crisis, proving that from the very beginning the main objective of planning armed measures and humanitarian crisis in the country has been to provide the Zionist regime’s interests.”

1028 GMT:Posturing Watch. The Ministry of Defence and Armed Forces has announced that a new fighter plane will be unveiled tomorrow.

1012 GMT:Rafsanjani Watch. Eskander Sadeghi-Boroujerdi of Iran Pulse reports that:

The chairman of the Expediency Discernment Council, Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, has claimed in the course of a meeting with the Teachers of the Qom Seminary that a “proxy-war against the clergy” has been “revived” in the country. He continued by adding, “the necessity of everyone’s attention on the emphasis of the Supreme Leader of the Revolution to refrain from creating disagreement and discord in the country.”

1003 GMT:Education Watch. President Ahmadinejad has unveiled 680 education, culture and sports projects across the country today and emphasised the importance of education in guaranteeing Iran’s future.

0633 GMT: Nuclear Scare Story Watch. The Christian Science Monitor --- notably through its Washington reporter rather than its top correspondent on Iran --- joins the outcry over Tehran's notification that it is installing new centrifuges at the Natanz uranium enrichment plant:

Iran insists its nuclear program is peaceful. The US and its allies fear Iran is actually developing weapons under the guise of building up civilian reactor technology.

In this context, is the centrifuge news a big deal? Yes, it may be --- if Iran is actually able to install the finicky machines and get them to work.

The Monitor then invokes the ubiquitous analyst Mark Fitzpatrick and his catchy sound-bite, "Iran’s installation of more efficient centrifuges at Natanz could be a game changer."

Then, perhaps unwittingly, the article outlines the less dramatic reason why the new centrifuges may have been installed: 40-year-old centrifuges are not a reliable basis for a enrichment process providing uranium for non-military uses:

Right now Iran uses IR-1 centrifuges....The IR-1 technology is from the 1970s, and Iran has had difficulty in getting the centrifuges to run properly....

Iran has long said it was working on a second-generation IR-2, thought to be based on a later European design that uses super-strong steel instead of aluminum for rotors and is capable of enriching uranium much faster than the IR-1.

0629 GMT: Free Elections Watch. Even the Foreign Ministry is joining the regime's warnings over plots in the Presidential camapign --- "The enemy is trying to maximize its pressures in a bid to create chaos in the country either in the (upcoming) election or before that, hoping to repeat the sedition of the post-2009 election," spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast told commanders and personnel of Khatam ol-Anbia, the engineering branch of the Revolutionary Guards, on Thursday.

0622 GMT: Ahmadinejad Watch. Speaking at a ceremony in Abadan in southern Iran, President Ahmadinejad modestly declared that the Islamic Revolution is the "new way forward for all humanity".

0608 GMT: Foreign Affairs Watch (Syrian Front). A development which was missed by the Western media --- Iran, which has been on the sidelines of much of the international manoeuvring over the Syrian crisis, was at Wednesday's United Nations conference in Kuwait on humanitarian aid.

While Western outlets reported on $900 million in pledges from Gulf States and other promises from the US and European countries --- all of which met the $1.5 billion UN target --- Tehran's offer of $200 million, made by Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian, attracted little notice.

0600 GMT: Engineering the Elections Watch. Days after the Supreme Leader's top advisor Ali Akbar Velayati explained why a three-man committee is choosing the "right" candidate to win June's Presidential election, Tehran Mayor Mohammad-Baqer Qalibaf --- like Velayati, a member of the committee, added his comments:

It does not seem that the necessity of cooperation and unity, which has been continuously emphasized by Imam [Khomeini] and the Supreme Leader and is desired by the people, needs further explanation or emphasis.

We believe that in order to jump to the status that is befitting of the country and its people we have no option other than to move wisely and in unity based on a plan for realization of progress and justice. This comprehensive and systematic project must be presented to the nation beforehand, and after their vote and its confirmation, a total mobilization of capabilities and experienced and efficient teams will be implemented.

The three-member coalition of principlists has been formed based on this principle and is close to introducing the most qualified, acceptable, and capable choice in the current sensitive situation.

Qalibaf did not reveal whether the committee --- which also includes Gholam Ali Haddad Adel, the leader of the principlists in Parliament and a member of the Supreme Leader's inner circle --- would choose one of its three members as the "right" man or whether it was looking farther.

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