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Iran Today: Tehran Discusses Syria With Egyptian Delegation

See also Iran Claim of the Day: "Ahmadinejad to Release Tape on Rigging of 2009 Election" if His Successor is Rejected
Saturday's Iran Today: Tehran on Nuclear Talks "No Time-Wasting"

Automobile Watch

The official website of Iran's automobile manufacturers that the production of the three largest companies --- Khodro, Saipa, and Pars Khodro --- fell by 47% in the year up to March 2013.

Political Prisoner Watch

Abdolhamid Moafian, who heads the Coordinating Council of Reformists in Fars Province, was arrested on Wednesday.

It is still not clear where Moafian, reportedly a supporter of former president Mohammad Khatami, is being held.

Jamileh Karimi, a former advisor to the governor of Fars Province during the Khatami Presidencyi, was also arrested recently.

Yaghoub Khezri --- Kurdish journalist, teacher, and blogger --- has been summoned to serve a one-year sentence stemming from his arrest in June 2012.

Foreign Affairs Watch (Egyptian Front)

Iranian media has put out the spin on today's visit by an Egyptian delegation to Tehran, discussing Syria. They quote President Ahmadinejad's statement to Essam El Haddad, advisor to President Morsi:

A group coming into power through war and conflict will lead to continued war and security problems for a long time. The lack of security in Syria will endanger the security of other regional countries and will threaten the entire region.

Referring to a proposed Egypt-Iran-Turkey-Saudi Arabia "contact group", Ahmadinejad said Tehran and Cairo should "accelerate their efforts to resolve Syrian issues based on understanding and dialogue".

Milk Watch

The head of Iran's dairy syndicates, Mohammadreza Esmaili, has said that subsidy cut have led to an increase of 40% to 60% in the price of milk, with a 20% fall in consumption.

Deputy Minister of Health Alireza Mesdaghinia has urged the public not to let rising prices remove milk and fruit from their diet, as this clould lead to malnutrition and osteoporosis.

Oil Watch: Propaganda Edition

Deputy Minister of Industry Alireza Shojaee has declared that Iran has dealt with Western sanctions by increasing non-petroleum exports to cover the sharp fall in its oil revenues.

Shojaee goes even farther, saying Tehran has been so successful that it no longer needs any sales of crude: "Foreign Researchers have acknowledged that Iran has taken a new step, and even if it completely halts its oil exports, it will be able to run its own economy as an at least average country, and have a say in the world."

Unfortunately, Shojaee's own proclaimed numbers sabotage his argument.

The Deputy Minister said that non-petroleum exports grew by 20% in the Iranian calendar year that ended in March 2013.

Shojaee did not get a dollar amount for that rise, but he pronounced that non-oil exports will be more than $50 billion by 20 March 2014.

So --- even assuming that the non-oil exports had reached $50 billion by March 2013 --- the increased revenue last year was $10 billion.

That does not come close to covering the loss of at least $50 billion in 2012 from a halving or Iran's oil exports.

Foreign Affairs Watch (Egyptian and Syrian Fronts)

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi's office has confirmed that senior Egyptian officials visited Tehran on Saturday to discuss a proposed Egyptian-Iranian-Turkish-Saudi "contact group" to resolve the Syrian conflict.

Morsi's foreign relations adviser Essam El Haddad led the delegation, which included Presidential Chief of Staff Refaa al-Tahtawi.

No details have emerged from the talks, which follow Iran's declaration last week that it had revived the short-lived contact group from last autumn. That initiative fell after Saudi Arabia did not send a representative to the first meeting of Foreign Ministers of the four countries.

Cairo says that the new effort is its initiative.

Saturday's discussions are important not only in the context of Syria, but also in that of Egyptian-Iranian relations. Tehran has pinned much of its hopes for an "Islamic Awakening", inspired by the 1979 Iranian Revolution, on the political system in Egypt after the fall of the Mubarak regime in February 2011, but these have been largely disappointed as Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood took positions separate from --- and sometimes clashing with --- those of Iran.

Last August, Morsi embarrassed the Iranians when he attended the Non-Aligned Movement's summit in Tehran and criticised the Iran-supported Syrian regime for "bloodshed" of civilians since March 2011.

A small rapprochement appeared last month with the first Iranian charter flights to Egypt since 1979, but these were soon halted after local opposition to the agreement.

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