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Iran Live: The Ahmadinejad Camp Makes A Move to Hold the Presidency

See also Iran Live Coverage: The Pre-Election Fight Escalates with Ahmadinejad

Ali Nikzad2058 GMT: Foreign Affairs Watch (Egyptian Front). In another sign of improving relations, the Iranian government has agreed that Egyptian tourists no longer need visas to visit the Islamic Republic.

On Saturday, the first flight from Egypt to Iran in 34 years took off from Cairo.

Security services in Aswan took strong measures for the security of 58 Iranian tourists who arrived there Saturday, escorting them throughout their visit.

1738 GMT: Economy Watch. The Statistics Center has put the official inflation rate for March 2012 to March 2013 at 31.5%.

The highest rate of increase was for tobacco, rising 78%, with vegetables and beans at 68%. White meat, fish, and marine products rose more than 50%.

1638 GMT: Revolutionary Guards Watch. More on the declaration of Ali Saeedi, the Supreme Leader's representative to the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, that the Guards will not interfere in June's Presidential elections....

Saeedi said that the IRGC was "beyond" political parties and groups, but Iran's enemies were trying to make the Guards look bad by painting a "black picture".

1635 GMT: Food Watch. Joanna Paraszczuk takes over coverage....

The head of the Basij Construction Organization, Majid Khorasani, has said the Basij militia may be mobilised to end the impasse over food security.

Khorasani said the aim of the plan was to develop and execute plans to break the deadlock on "12 areas of food insecurity", and that 13,000 billion Rials (about $340,000 at open-market rates) is needed for the project.

The projects include developing domestic industries for processing agricultural products and building greenhouses, fruit and vegetable processing plants, and beekeeping facilities.

The Basij militia is responsible for building Iran's "resistance economy", which promotes locally-grown food supplies. Its aim is to reduce dependency on imports.

The head of the Basij, Mohammad Reza Naqdi, said last year that he wanted the enemy to "impose as many sanctions as possible" on Iran so the West could realize the Islamic Republic's true potential.

1255 GMT: Election Watch. Ali Saeedi, the Supreme Leader's representative to the Revolutionary Guards, has said that the Guards will not intervene in June's Presidential election.

Saeedi started a political controversy in January when he said that it is the "duty" of the Revolutionary Guards to "engineer" the vote. President Ahmadinejad has used the quote to accuse his rivals of trying to manipulate the election.

1155 GMT: The House Arrests. The opposition site Kalemeh reports that detained opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Zahra Rahnavard have not been allowed a phone call, let alone a visit, by anyone --- including their three daughters --- since the Iranian New Year on 21 March.

Mousavi, the leading challenger to Mahmoud Ahmadinejaad in the disputed 2009 Presidential election, and his wife Rahnavard have been held under strict house arrest since February 2011.

0755 GMT: Foreign Affairs Watch (Syrian Front). Commenting on foreign interventions in Syria, Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast accused the West and the US of an interest in regional instability and support of terrorist groups.

"If Western countries really favour democracy, then why not allow the Syrian people to determine their own destiny?," he asked.

Mehmanparast said that Tehran planned to end the fighting in Syria, while "some Western countries are saying there should not be a political dialogue and have publicly announced they are sending more weapons to the opposition, which will intensify the conflict."

Mehmanparast also accused the West of stirring up religious ethnic conflicts against Iran, but said those plots had failed because the Iranian people did not fall for the conspiracies.

The spokesman also commented on Iran's nuclear program, saying the West falsely claimed this was "dangerous energy and that's why our country has been sanctioned for the past 32 years".

Mehmanparast then denounced long-term US manoeuvres in the region: "America used the pretext of terrorism to attack Iraq and Afghanistan. We believe a Western military presence in the region is not needed."

0725 GMT: Election Watch. Presidential candidate Mohsen Rezaei --- a former Revolutionary Guards commander --- continues his assault on the Ahmadinejad Government via the economy.

In a statement on his Tabnak news site, Rezaei points to two major problems.

The first difficulty, according to Rezaei, is that there is no "strong meritocracy" so Iranians are not mobilised to be productive. The second is that "some people...don't have a program, but just chant nice slogans. However, these slogans are just their dreams and they don't actually produce results."

Echoing the Supreme Leader's ideology of the "Resistance Economy", Rezaei called on Iranians to work together for the common good. "In tough economic times, there needs to be collective action," he said, adding that the country must put to use its experts, scholars and educators must be available to be put to use.

Rezaei's comments were also published by Fars News, which is close to the Revolutionary Guards.

0714 GMT: Election Watch. A significant development in the manoeuvring over June's Presidential election --- Minister of Roads and Urban Development Ali Nikzad has officially announced his candidacy.

The basic reports of Nikzad's announcement, made during a visit to Ardebil in northwest Iran, cover up a bigger story: his candidacy is part of the attempt by the Ahmadinejad camp to hold onto power.

Ahmadinejad's preferred candidate is his right-hand man Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai, but the President's inner circle face a battle to get the Guardian Council's approval of Rahim-Mashai's campaign. So since the autumn, Nikzad has been lined up as an alternative.

To boost Nikzad, the President tried to make him the head of a new "super-ministry", formed by the merger of the Ministries of Roads and of Communciations. The effort was blocked by Parliament.

Nikzad did not respond to a question about his alliance with a particular group or current, saying he would answer later.

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