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Iran Live Coverage: A Complicated Relationship with Pakistan

A report on the importance for Pakistan of imports of Iranian gas

See also Sunday's Iran Live Coverage: Looking for Energy Deals

2031 GMT: Press Watch. Abbas Darvish Tavangar, deputy editor of the "hard-line" Tasnim News, has been released after a few hours in detention.

Tavangar was seized because of a Government complaint, the details of which have not been specified.

1815 GMT: Press Watch. The regime's mixed approach of crackdown and prison releases continues....

Journalist Ehsan Mazandarani, one of the 18 journalists seized in late January, has been released from detention.

However, Abbas Darvish Tavangar, deputy editor of the "hard-line" Tasnim News has been arrested after a Government complaint; blogger and student Badri Safiari has been detained at Shiraz University; and the permit for reformist daily Maghreb has been annulled by the Media Supervisory Commission.

1155 GMT: Sanctions Watch. European Union Foreign Ministers have approved the addition of nine Iranian individuals and one entity to its sanctions list, which includes a travel ban and asset freeze.

The names, which will be published on Tuesday, were added because of "serious human rights violations".

The EU is now sanctioning 87 Iranians.

1025 GMT: All the President's Men (Trial Edition). Iran Prosecutor General Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei has criticised the remarks of Presidential advisor Saeed Mortazavi in the second court hearing in his trial on Sunday.

Mortazavi, being tried for complicity in murder over the abuse and killing of post-election protesters in summer 2009 in Kahrizak detention centre, said the court was not competent to consider his case.

Mohseni Ejei said, "The court will respond to this remark."

Meanwhile, one of the two judges on trial along the Presidential advisor --- who was Tehran Prosecutor General in summer 2009 --- said, "I am guilty and Mortazavi is innocent as he was on leave to defend his Ph.D. thesis at the time of the incidents.”

1021 GMT: Economy Watch. Deputy Speaker of Parliament Mohammad Reza Bahonar has said, because of economic problems and mismanagement, "we were not successful in the economy and hence we could not uphold the slogan of the Supreme Leader" for a Year of National Production.

Bahonar continued, "Therefore we would like to ask the Supreme Leader to have the same slogan for this coming year."

0951 GMT: Ahmadinejad Watch. Tehran Mayor Mohammad-Baqer Qalibaf, after criticising President Ahmadinejad’s policies, has declared that "the period of 'Shall I say it?' [Ahmadinejad’s famous campaign statement in the 2009 Presidential election] is finished".

Qalibaf said that his aim, on a three-man committee trying to pick a "unity" candidate for June's Presidential election, is "to stop the current mischievous and wrong policies".

Former President Hashemi Rafsanjani has also criticised Ahamdinejad, blaming his "wrong foreign policies" as one of the causes of the economic crisis. He continued, "I knew from the beginning that disrespecting the law and arrogance by government officials would lead to such conditions in Iran."

0945 GMT: Ahmadinejad Watch. Three months before the Presidential election, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has boosted his right-hand man and would-be successor, Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai, by giving him Iran's "National Cultural Medal".

Ahmadinejad said, "I have known him for 28 years and I jave never seen anyone like him. If I want to summaries Mashaee in one sentence I’d say Mashaee is a man of spring, spring, and spring."

Ahmadinejad's declaration, "Viva Spring", in his speech on the anniversary of the Islamic Revolution on 10 February, was seen by many as the unofficial launch of Rahim-Mashai's Presidential campaign.

0915 GMT: Economy Watch. Voice of America Persian reports on the difficult situation in the automobile industry.

Manufacturers are complaining that they have to import components at the open-market exchange rate --- under which foreign goods are three times as expensive as the official rate, which the Government is refusing to grant to the producers.

The producers claim that 1st Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi has rubbed salt into the wound by asking them to give discounts to buyers as presents for Iranian New Year.

0855 GMT: Foreign Affairs Watch (Pakistani Front). Joanna Paraszczuk brings more news of complications in the Iran-Pakistan relationship....

The "hard-line" Mashregh News brings Saudi Arabia into the story, blaming foreign "Wahhabis" for the recent deaths of Pakistani Shias in sectarian attacks.

Mashregh uses the incidents to discuss the Supreme Leader's remarks on "noble and oppressed Shias" in Pakistan, including his remarks on the killing of a Shia Muslim man, Seyyed Arif Hussein by sectarian gunmen. Hussein had been a student in Najaf, Iraq of the late Ayatollah Khomenei.

The comments come as Iran faces increasing sectarian violence on its own soil, particularly in the Sistan-Baluchistan Province where a number of Sunni Jihadist groups have formed in the past year.

The groups, which include Harakat Ansar Iran and Jaish ul-Adl, have claimed responsibility for several attacks on Revolutionary Guards personnel. Tehran has blamed foreign agents, particularly Qatar and Saudi Arabia, for sponsoring the Sunni factions.

Harakat Ansar Iran recently announced that it is cooperating with the insurgent group Sipah-e Shahaba in Pakistan.

0700 GMT: Foreign Affairs Watch (Syrian Front). Fars News Agency, close to the Revolutionary Guards, leads with an interview in Damascus with Syria's Deputy Minister of Information, Khalaf al-Mofteh.

Al-Mofteh said that Syria was in a "dangerous phase", especially since foreign fighters have acquired new weapons and military equipment, sent by the US, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey.

The interview appears to be part of an effort by Iranian media to highlight recent reports --- see the Syria Exclusive on EA this morning --- of a foreign-backed initiative to arm the insurgents.

0700 GMT: Foreign Affairs Watch (Pakistani Front). We opened Sunday's Live Coverage by highlighting Iran's efforts to get out of its energy difficulties through new pipeline projects with neighbours.

One of those projects, a multi-billion-dollar initiative with Pakistan, is to be inaugurated in a Pakistani border town today by President Ahmadinejad and his Pakistani counterpart, Asif Ali Zardari.

Yet, for the last 36 hours, Iranian media has been pounding away at its supposed friend and pipeline saviour, focusing on the "massacre of the Shia Muslims in terrorist attacks in Pakistan".  Press TV has the headlines, "Iran Blasts Silence on Shia Carnage", "UN Urged to Convene on Shia Carnage", "Iranian MPs to Summon Pakistani Envoy".

More than 230 MPs issued a statement reinforcing the message. Then yesterday, as he prepared to go to Pakistan, a leading Iranian joined the campaign via his official website:

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has censured the killings of Shia Muslims in Pakistan....

Ahmadinejad said those behind the killings “have no goals except to create a gap among Islamic sects".

The Iranian president also expressed his condolences for the killings, and called on the Pakistani authorities to find those responsible for the attacks.....

“The repeated brutal slaying of innocent Pakistani Shias is undoubtedly a plot hatched by the enemies of Islam --- particularly the US, Britain and their regional accomplices."

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