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Iran Today: Regime Attacks Rafsanjani as "Leader of Sedition"

Election Watch: Teachers Urge Rafsanjani to Run.

An assembly of reformist-aligned teachers and researchers has issued a statement condemning recent “insults” of Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatami and urged the two former presidents to accept the invitation of the people and run for office in June’s election.

Economy Watch: Ahmadinejad Under Fire.

President Ahmadinejad has come under more criticism today, this time by Grand Ayatollah Musavi Aradabilli who told a meeting of labour leaders that if the government follows the same policies as the present one, the country’s economic condition will only worsen.

Your Friday Prayers Update: Qom Edition.

Ayatollah Ebrahim Amini, temporary Friday Prayer leader in Qom, took his turn at the podium to harshly criticise the country’s economic situation and blamed poor government management for exacerbating the inflation rate.

Amini claimed that ordinary people are tired of hearing slogans for justice and actually want to tangible progress in their everyday lives.

He added that the new president will face considerable trouble and economic difficulties created by the mistakes of the present government.

Your Friday Prayers Update: Tehran Edition.

Ayatollah Emami Kashani took to the podium today to tell the field of presidential hopefuls that they will their first priority needs to be a programme to restore the economy.

Kashani also warned candidates against reducing the election to insults, and reiterated that while the position of the president is divine he must operate within the framework of the Islamic Republic – that is to say, whoever wins the election needs to be loyal to the Supreme Leader.

He also said that the question of overall policies, referring to Iran’s negotiations with the United States over its nuclear programme, will not be controlled by the president but by the Supreme Leader.

Nuclear Watch: Western Diplomat Lowers Expectations.

Commenting on the forthcoming 15 May follow-up talks on Iran’s nuclear programme, a western diplomat has told Al-Monitor that the P5+1’s chief negotiator Catherine Ashton will be “in listening mode.”

The diplomat appeared to be dampening expectations of any major breakthrough during the talks, stating that “The P5+1 are expecting some sort of an indication that Iran wants to engage seriously,” although “the bar seems to be rather low.”

Confirmation that Top Diplomat Arrested (Continued)

Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi has commented on the detention of prominent diplomat Bagher Asadi (see earlier this week), which occurred in mid-March but has only now been acknowledged by the regime: "We hope that Assadi's arrest by an intelligence org was a misunderstanding. He has an excellent diplomatic record."

While pointing to tension between the Foreign Ministry and the Ministry of Intelligence, Salehi insisted that Asadi's arrest is not connected to June's Presidential election.

Nuclear Watch: Top Negotiators for Iran, 5+1 Powers Meet on 15 May

Tehran’s chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili and European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who represents the 5+1 Powers (US, Britain, France, Russia, China, and Germany) will meet in Istanbul on 15 May.

The encounter is the first since high-level talks ended with no progress in early April in the Kazakh capital Almaty.

Negotiations resumed in February but have not advanced on questions such as Iran's enrichment of uranium to 20%, recognition of its right to enrich, and Western sanctions.

Confirmation that Top Diplomat Arrested

Former Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki has confirmed the arrest in March of prominent diplomat Bagher Asadi.

Mottaki said, “So far as I know, this individual (in custody) is an experienced Foreign Ministry diplomat and his latest assignment has been deputy for the D8 group Secretary-General. But I am not informed about the details of the situation.”

The D8 --- consisting of Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan and Turkey --- is an association pursuing economic development.

A source said Asadi was detained on 12 March after his house was raided and his laptop and personal items were seized. The diplomat's family has been under pressure from security forces not to discuss the matter publicly, the source said.

Ahmad Bakshahyesh, a member of Parliament’s National Security Commission, said Thursday that the report must be false:

Ordinarily, the arrest of a diplomat is a result of a violation he may have committed in the country in which he is stationed, or it could be political, for example about the subject of reformists.

I think this news must be wrong.

Election Watch: Officials Named to Supervising Board

After weeks of delay, the 11-member supervising board for the Presidential election has been named. It consists of the Ministers of Interior and Intelligence, Iran's Prosecutor General, a representative of Parliament, and seven other officials.

The change is seen as a reduction of the power of the Ministry of Interior, which had full oversight of the 2009 election, and thus of President Ahmadinejad. The postponement in naming the board, which was supposed to be in place in March, has been blamed on objections by Ahmadinejad's office.

The seven permanent members are Minister of Justice Morteza Bakhtiari; MPs Esmail Kowsari and Mohammad Mehdi Zahedi; the Supreme Leader’s representatives to the universities, Reza Taghvi; the Supreme Leader’s representative to the Martyr’s Foundation, Mohammad Hassan Rahimian, and Ansieh Khazali, the lone woman on the board.

Minister of Intelligence: Former President Rafsanjani is Leader of "Sedition"

It took a few days, but the regime has now issued a sharp response to the indications of former President Hashemi Rafsanjani that he might run in June's election.

Minister of intelligence Heydar Moslehi said Thursday that Rafsanjani and former President Mohammad Khatami had fostered protests after the disputed 2009 Presidential election. He warned, that they could still suffer the fate of detained opposition figures Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, both under house arrest since February 2011: "If the State has not arrested them like the leaders of the sedition, it is because of the patience that the State have towards these people."

Moslehi then turned specifically to Rafsanjani, "The person who wrote a letter without greetings to Supreme Leader --- today says he had foreseen the sedition. In fact, we have evidence that this person himself was leading the sedition." He continued:

This individual, who instigated the naïve leaders of the sedition and those around him, was pushing the march of sedition, but today the open eyes of the system are monitoring his movements and will in no way allow the events of 2009 to take place again.

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