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Iran Live Coverage: Revolutionary Guards Challenge "Narcissist" Ahmadinejad

See also Iran Analysis: A Revolutionary Guard Commander is Killed in Syria --- What It Means for Tehran and the Middle East
Friday's Iran Live Coverage: The Latest Report on Tehran's Nuclear Programme

1855 GMT: Ahmadinejad Watch. President Ahmadinejad has appeared on national TV tonight to defend the yet-to-be-presented Government budget for 2013/14.

Ahmadinejad also defended his policies on investment and tried to ease concern over problems in the health care system, hit by shortages of drugs and medical supplies amid sanctions and claims of Government mismanagement. He continued to promote his subsidy cuts plan, the second phase of which has been held up by Parliament.

The President said he would soon meet Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani and head of judiciary Sadegh Larijani, with whom he has had a high-profile clash over the last month, to discuss "current issues".

1815 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch (Journalist Editon). Keyvan Mehregan has been released from prison.

Of the 17 reporters and editors detained in the last month, six have been freed on bail.

1733 GMT: The Battle Within. Joanna Paraszczuk brings potentially significant news in the political and legal conflict....

Mehr reports that controversial Presidential advisor Saeed Mortazavi will finally face charges in connection with the abuse and killing of post-election protesters in the Kahrizak detention centre in summer 2009.

The site says that Mortazavi, Tehran Prosecutor General at the time of the incidents, will face three counts of accessory to murder for the three men --- including the son of a leading conservative political activist --- whose deaths from abuse were confirmed.

The arraignment will be on Tuesday in open court.

1713 GMT: Economy Watch. An EA reader bring the news that 1st Vice President Rahimi has signed the decree for the Nowruz (New Year) bonus for Government workers --- it will be 4,025,000 Rial (about $110 at open-market rate), compared to 3,500,000 Rial for last year.

Bahar reports that the bonus may not seem so great with inflation of more than 30%. It adds that the monthly minimum wage for workers will only be raised by 18-20% next year from its current level of 3,890,000 Rials (about $105) per month.

The average wage to provide an adequate standard of living for a family of four is 13,160,000 Rials per month, according to Iranian guidelines.

1706 GMT: Economy Watch. Professor of economics Hossein Raghfar has announced an open letter by 43 economists to President Ahmadinejad, criticising the unprofessional and hasty Government decisions that cause problems.

1634 GMT: Economy Watch. Authorities say Iran's unemployment has fallen by 0.6% since last year to 11.2%.

The officials said 2.7 million Iranians are out of work.

1534 GMT: Nuclear Watch. Joanna Paraszczuk follows up with the presentation in Iranian State media of the announcement (see 1338 GMT) that the Islamic Republic has discovered several new sources of raw uranium in southern coastal areas and that 16 sites in Khuzestan Province and coastal areas have been earmarked for nuclear power stations.

The report by the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), issued just days before Iran meets the 5+1 Powers in nuclear talks in Kazakhstan, specifically reiterates Tehran's self-sufficiency and ability to advance technologically using its own resources, even in the face of sanctions.

State news agency IRIB said that the uranium was discovered "with the grace of God and with the blessing of the Hidden Imam, as well as with the constant support of Iran's Supreme Leader, and in the light of revolutionary policies and the courage of the servants of the state, along with the strong support of the proud [Iranian] nation, even amid increased pressures and sanctions from the West against our country".

The discoveries heralded a "new phase in the achievements and capabilities" of Iran's "nuclear industry experts", who were "building on indigenous capabilities and capacities in Uranium exploration", IRIB added. It thanked the "great wise leader of the Islamic Revolution" --- a reference to the Supreme Leader --- and the "nuclear martyrs", the assassinated Iranian scientists.

"This achievement is an objective fulfillment of the late Khomenei's phrase 'We can!'", the article concluded in an unintentional echo of US President Obama's past campaign slogan.

The Iranian regime frequently praises its self-sufficiency and indigenous technology, which it says has allowed it to make scientific, nuclear and military advances despite sanctions and "Western pressure". The AEOI report, coming so close to the start of the nuclear talks, should be read within this context.

Reuters' article on the AEOI's claims (see 1338 GMT) did not mention how it is part of this pattern, instead noting that the announcement was "likely to concern the West" and that Western experts had "previously thought that Iran may be close to exhausting its supply of raw uranium".

1338 GMT: Nuclear Watch. It is customary for Tehran, just before high-level talks about its nuclear programme, to announce an advance --- and this time is no different.

The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran has said that it has found significant new deposits of raw uranium m and has identified sites for 16 more nuclear power stations, three days before Iran meets the 5+1 Powers in Kazakhstan.


The AEOI, cited by State news agency IRNA, said the deposits were found in "southern coastal areas" and had trebled the amount outlined in previous estimates.

1330 GMT: Foreign Affairs Watch (Egyptian Front). It's all good news today from State outlet Press TV about Egyptian relations with Iran:

Egypt’s Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr has praised Iran as an undeniable power in the Middle East and called for Tehran’s involvement in resolving the crisis in Syria.

Amr said on Friday that Iran was a “regional power that no one can ignore.”

But wait --- Daily News Egypt indicates that Press TV only used a few of the Foreign Minister's words:

The Minister of Foreign Affairs released a statement on Friday clarifying Egypt’s relationship with Iran.

Mohamed Kamel Amr said that Iran is “a regional power that no one can ignore, but there are determinants of the relationship and Egypt has fixed limitations and is committed to them”.

The statement outlined these limitations, of which there are three. The first is the policy of non-interference in another country’s internal affairs and no tolerance for another country interfering in internal Egyptian affairs.

The second limitation specifies “no sectarian activity in other countries”. The third limitation is specific to Egypt’s policy on security in the Gulf. Kamel Amr equated Gulf security to Egyptian security and added that “Cairo will not have relations with any party at the expense of the security of the Gulf and will not allow any side to tamper with the security of the Gulf”.

1222 GMT: Defection Watch. The Foreign Ministry has effectively confirmed the defection of a "high-ranking" diplomat at the Iranian Embassy in Norway (see Saturday's Live Coverage).

Spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said the diplomat had not returned to Iran "because of personal problems".

The Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet has reported that the diplomat --- one of at least five to quit the Iranian foreign service and defect since June 2009 --- had left the Embassy in December and is now seeking asylum with his family.

1119 GMT: Women's Rights Watch. Nazanin Kamdar of Rooz Online reports on the withdrawal of a Parliamentary bill requiring single women under the age of 40 to provide the written consent of a guardian to obtain a passport.

1115 GMT: Ahmadinejad Watch. Fars reports that President Ahmadinejad will address the nation on State TV tonight.

1109 GMT: Nuclear Watch. An analyst based in France sends this observation, amid our recent coverage of manoeuvres before next Tuesday's talks between Iran and the 5+1 Powers:

Ayatollah Khamenei will never consider the reported US offer to ease sanctions banning transfer of gold and precious metals to Iran as a step. He needs something more substantial which would be "tradeable" domestically --- all the more so in the weeks before June's Presidential election.

Again and again, face-saving is critical in the Middle East.

See EA Video Analysis: Iran --- 7-Point Beginner's Guide to the Nuclear Talks

1041 GMT: Espionage Watch. The Iranian Ambassador to Spain says authorities have released an employee of the Embassy, one of three Iranians detained on allegations of espionage.

The three men were arrested on Thursday night. The two others, still held, are not connected with the Embassy, according to the Ambassador.

Spanish authorities said the suspects infiltrated a Spanish NGO that helps asylum seekers, giving information to Iran’s secret services about Iranians who have fled the country.

1035 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Ali Abel Sadah, writing for Al Monitor, offers more information on the arrest of Iraqi Shiite cleric Ahmad Qabanji by Iranian authorities this week.

Qabanji explicitly opposes religious interference in politics, supports the establishment of a civil state and disapproves of the theory of velayat-e faqih (Guardianship of the Jurist), which is the basis of the Islamic Republic.

1020 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Human Rights Watch has called on authorities to allow at least 20 detainees charged with terrorism to have access to lawyers and family members.

Family and associates close to three of the detainees, held in connection with the murder of Iranian nuclear scientists, told HRW that the Government has not provided families of the prisoners with details of the charges or evidence. The only information released publicly were several announcements by the Ministry of Intelligence that it had arrested more than a dozen people, and the televised confessions of 12 detainees last August.

0810 GMT: Press Watch. Kalemeh reports that the Baztab site, prominent for its criticism of the Ahmadinejad Government, has been blocked in Iran again.

Baztab was taken off-line for days earlier this month. Its editor, Fouad Sadeghi, reportedly pointed to sustained cyber-assaults on it from outside Iran: "It's a pity that the site gets attacked with oil money from overseas."

0743 GMT: Labour Front. The strike of 1200 workers at the Safa pipeline factory has ended with payment of a month of wages owed to the workers.

0630 GMT: Ahmadinejad Watch. We open with a jab by the Revolutionary Guards at President Ahmadinejad.

The political deputy of the Guards, Rasul Sanai Rad has criticised Ahmadinejad's failure to apologise to the Supreme Leader, in his letter earlier this month about his dispute with Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani.

Ahmadinejad exposed his devotion to Ayatollah Khamenei but not express regret for behaviour which the Supreme Leader called "immoral" and "illegal". The letter contrasted with those of Ali Larijani and head of judiciary Sadegh Larijani, as they both quickly apologised for their actions in the political conflict.

In a meeting of Revolutionary Guard commanders in Semnan province, Sanai Rad said someone who claims to have “esteem” for the Supreme Leader,  but is not prepared to apologise in a “narcissistic” atmosphere, cannot account for the inconsistency in his behavior.

Sanai Rad, in another reference to Ahmadinejad and his letter, added that a number of individuals who put forth “the slogan for unfurling the flag of justice and fighting corruption” are “after the preservation of power at any price” and are “involved in manifest deviance".

The commander continued, “In political psychology, an individual who finds himself engrossed in political narcissism and who thinks himself superior to others, is not able to accept criticism, doesn’t accept the word of others and becomes susceptible to delusion.”

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