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Iran Live Coverage: Admitting the Battle Within

Press TV's coverage of the Supreme Leader's speech criticising President Ahmadinejad, Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani, and head of judiciary Sadegh Larijani

See also Saturday's Iran Live Coverage: Tehran's Support for Syria Will Cause "War Between Shia and Sunni"

2030 GMT: The Battle Within. Forget the non-apology letter to the Supreme Leader, this is President Ahmadinejad's big statement today....

Ahmaadinejad used a speech to repeat his warning against the "engineering" of elections --- a swipe at last month's statement by the Supreme Leader's representative to the Revolutionary Guards, Ali Saeedi --- and swept aside any notion that he will back down: "I will work until last minute of my term."

The President continued, "I am ready to sacrifice myself for Islam and Qur'an. My only wish is that the flag of monotheism and justice flies and that mankind is set free."

2020 GMT: Buddha Watch. An Iranian official has called for the banning of Buddha statues in shops.

Saeed Jaberi-Ansari, the secretary of the Staff of Conservation of Cultural Monuments, said the statues are "an example for cultural invasion", as the "enemy wants to spread a certain kind of religion".

1650 GMT: The Battle Within. More on President Ahmadinejad's letter to the Supreme Leader (see 1610 GMT), posted on his website --- Ahmadinejad expresses his attachment and devotion to Ayatollah Khamenei and the Iranian people, but no hint of an apology.

1646 GMT: Corruption Watch. Iran Prosecutor General Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei now says that the four primary defendants in the $2.6 billion bank fraud (see 0805 GMT) have been given execution orders.

The manager of the Kish branch has received a life sentence, while two former deputy ministers and two managing directors at the Transportation Ministry were sentenced to ten years in prison and lashes.

1610 GMT: The Battle Within. It looks like President Ahmadinejad is not backing down in his fight with Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani and head of judiciary Sadegh Larijani, despite the Supreme Leader's Saturday morning speech criticising all of the men and specifically denouncing Ahmadinejad's "immoral" and "illegal" challenge to the Larijanis on the floor of Parliament on 3 February.

Journalist Hadi Nili reports:

The Larijanis, in contrast, quickly said sorry, and Ali Larijani organising an apology by Parliament today.

1418 GMT: Nuclear Watch. Leading MP Alaeddin Boroujerdi has dismissed a reported Western offer for nuclear talks on 26 February as insubstantial.

On Friday, Western officials said that, in return for Iranian moves to close its Fordoo enrichment plant, which produces 20% uranium, the US would remove restrictions on transfer of gold and precious metals to Tehran.

The restrictions had only come into force on 6 February, seeking to block transactions such as Turkey's gold-for-gas arrangement with Tehran.

Boroujerdi said, "Fordoo will never be shut down because...our national duty is to be able to defend our nuclear and vital centres against an enemy threat. "This suggestion is meant to help the Zionist regime."

See Iran Analysis: The US Makes a Non-Offer on the Nuclear Talks.

1415 GMT: The Battle Within. Backing a motion initiated by Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani, 265 of the 290 MPs in the Majlis apologised to the Supreme Leader.

On Saturday morning, Ayatollah Khamanei criticised President Ahmadnejad and Larijani for their clash in Parliament on 3 February. He also said MPs said not have pressed for the dismissal of the Minister of Labor, which prompted Ahmadinejad's claim on the floor of the Majlis of corruption among the Larijani family.

Hours later, both Larijani and his brother Sadegh, the head of judiciary, said they were sorry for the events and hailed Khamenei's "compassionate wisdom".

The MPs said today, “For our part, we apologise for what occurred in the Islamic Parliament regarding the impeachment.”

1355 GMT: The House Arrests. Weekend interrogations of the daughters of detained opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Zahra Rahnavard have been postponed.

Two of the daughters of the couple, who have been under strict house arrest for two years, were questioned in Evin Prison last week after their homes were raided. In mid-week, authorities said some of the Mousavi-Rahnavard daughters would be summoned to Evin for further interrogation, but this has now been put off without a stated reason.

0955 GMT: The US Front. An EA correspondent picks out an interesting passage in the Supreme Leader's speech on Saturday:

If the US stop their bullying and wickedness, respect the rights of the Iranian people, stop interfering in internal affairs of Iran, as they clearly did with the support for the sedition of 1388 [the 2009 Presidential election], and not inflame the situation in the region, these will show Americans’ goodwill and this will be met with an appropriate response.

Interpretation: for all the headlines over the last 10 days that Ayatollah Khamenei has ruled out direct talks with the US --- which is a moot point, since it is the discussions with the 5+1 Powers that are proceeding on 26 February in Kazakhstan --- he and his inner circle are not ruling out negotiations. Instead, they are looking for a substantial US move over sanctions.

Problem is that they are not going to get it --- see "Iran Analysis: The US Makes a Non-Offer on the Nuclear Talks".

0945 GMT: The Battle Within. The conservative site Alef, linked to high-profile MP and Presidential critic Ahmad Tavakoli, has asserted that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad "has shown a yellow card" to the Guardian Council. The President has allegedly warned that, if his right-hand man Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai is not approved, he will cancel the elections.

0900 GMT: At the Movies. Filmmaker Jafar Panahi, under house arrest and threatened with a six-year prison sentence, has won Best Script at the Berlin Film Festival for "Closed Curtain".

Panahi co-directed the film despite a 20-year ban on filmmaking, handing down with his prison sentence for "propaganda against the system" in December 2010.

The film reflects Panahi's frustration at being unable to work officially.

Co-director Kamboziya Partovi accepted the award on behalf of Panahi, telling the audience that "it's never been possible to stop a thinker and a poet".

0855 GMT: Rumour of the Day. Fars claims that Iran Prosecutor General Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei met Presidential advisor Saeed Mortazavi for three hours in Evin Prison, where Mortazavi was briefly detained two weeks ago.

So what was the topic? Fars dangles a provocative claim: it says the trial over the abuse and killing of post-election protesters in summer 2009 in Kahrizak Prison will soon resume. Mortazavi has long been under pressure, as Tehran Prosecutor General at the time, to face judgement over his alleged role in the affair.

0805 GMT: Corruption Watch. Within hours of the Supreme Leader's declaration that the State must be effective in its fight against corruption, news emerged of execution orders for two defendants in the $2.6 billion bank fraud case that emerged in September 2011.

One of those condemned to death is Mahafarid Amir Khosravi, the entrepreneur who allegedly bought up businesses and industrial concerns with fraudulent lines of credit.

0735 GMT: The Battle Within. We begin with an interesting shift in State media, giving precedence to the Supreme Leader's comments on the battle within the regime --- including his castigation of President Ahmadinejad for "immoral" and "illegal" behaviour and criticism of the Larjiani brothers, Speaker of Parliament Ali and head of judiciary Sadegh, for their "excessive" response and failure to unify in the fight against corruption --- in a speech on Saturday morning.

Initially Press TV maintained silence over the remarks, as it headlined another section of Ayatollah Khamenei's statement on relations with the US and Iran's nuclear programme. However, later in the day, it shifted emphasis, highlighting the Supreme Leader's criticism of the three heads of Government as an injunction to "set aside their differences and work toward promoting the country's economic conditions". The report paid attention to the incident that sparked the latest and most intense Ahmadinejad-Larijani clash --- the President's attempt, in a speech on the floor of Parliament, to produce an audio tape proving corruption in the Larijani family --- and also featured the Supreme Leader's admission of economic problems, although he then insisted that "these have failed to distance the people from the Islamic establishment".

Still, there are limits to this confession. The subsequent interview with Seyed Mohammad Marandi begins with the academic's confident summary of the Supreme Leader's remarks about the US --- "West cannot intimidate Iran under any circumstances", the headline of the article --- but Marandi is hesitant over the question about Khamenei's slap-down of the Ahmadinejad and the Larijanis, as he tries to frame this simply as a call for unity in the face of Western attacks on a "dynamic" Iranian political system.

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