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Entries in Ramin Mehmanparast (4)


LATEST Iran Urgent: The Deal on Uranium Enrichment (and US Response)

UPDATE 18 MAY, 1445 GMT: Ahh, so here's the apparent response of the Obama Administration, or at least Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: reduce the Iran-Brazil-Turkey agreement to "a number of unanswered questions" and push forward with the high-profile sanctions drive in the United Nations. Clinton's statement, just made to a Senate committee:

“We have reached agreement on a strong draft with the cooperation of both Russia and China. We plan to circulate that draft resolution to the entire Security Council today. And let me say, Mr. Chairman, I think this announcement is as convincing an answer to the efforts undertaken in Tehran over the last few days as any we could provide.”

Iran Document: Text of Iran-Brazil-Turkey Agreement on Uranium Enrichment

UPDATE 1745 GMT: The US Government has now made its formal response to the Tehran agreement. It's little more than a "hold the line" statement, issued by White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs. It gives no clue as to whether Washington was supportive of the Brazilian-Turkish mediation; instead it sets the next challenge: let's see the proposal go to the International Atomic Energy Agency and, possibly, let's see Iran suspend its unilateral push for 20-percent uranium:

We acknowledge the efforts that have been made by Turkey and Brazil. The proposal announced in Tehran must now be conveyed clearly and authoritatively to the IAEA before it can be considered by the international community. Given Iran’s repeated failure to live up to its own commitments, and the need to address fundamental issues related to Iran’s nuclear program, the United States and international community continue to have serious concerns. While it would be a positive step for Iran to transfer low-enriched uranium off of its soil as it agreed to do last October, Iran said today that it would continue its 20% enrichment, which is a direct violation of UN Security Council resolutions and which the Iranian government originally justified by pointing to the need for fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor. Furthermore, the Joint Declaration issued in Tehran is vague about Iran’s willingness to meet with the P5+1 countries to address international concerns about its nuclear program, as it also agreed to do last October.

The United States will continue to work with our international partners, and through the United Nations Security Council, to make it clear to the Iranian government that it must demonstrate through deeds –-- and not simply words –-- its willingness to live up to international obligations or face consequences, including sanctions. Iran must take the steps necessary to assure the international community that its nuclear program is intended exclusively for peaceful purposes, including by complying with U.N. Security Council resolutions and cooperating fully with the IAEA. We remain committed to a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear program, as part of the P5+1 dual track approach, and will be consulting closely with our partners on these developments going forward.

The European Union and Britain have put out similar statements.

UPDATE 1245 GMT: A group of Iranian political activists have declared that today’s uranium agreement, from a “political and economic” stance, is in the interest of the Iranian nation.

Mohammad Bastehnegar, Ezzatollah Sahabi, Taghii Rahmani, Hosein Rafii, Reza Raistoosi, Hossein ShahHosseini, Azam Taleghani, Reza Alijani, and Nezameddin Ghahari asserted that the agreement could end economic sanctions against Iran and lead to “transparency” in Iran’s relationship with the world.

The statement calls for collaboration of both conservative and reformist political activists in supporting this government initiative.

UPDATE 1110 GMT: Trita Parsi gets to the heart of why this arrangement was struck when last October's very similar deal, which reached top-table discussions in Geneva between Iran, the US, and other powers, collapsed. He notes talks between Brazil's Lula and the Supreme Leader: "This is no longer Ahmadinejad's nuclear deal, this is Khamenei's nuclear deal."

UPDATE 1015 GMT: Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki has offered more details of the proposed uranium swap at a press conference. From Press TV:
Iran will ask the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] to station its personnel in Turkey to monitor the safe-keeping of the dispatched LEU [Tehran's 1200 kilogrammes low-enriched uranium]....The top diplomat underlined Iran will inform the IAEA of its decision "through official channels" within no more than seven days from the Monday meeting.
"Upon the positive response of the Vienna Group --- which includes Russia, France, the United States and the IAEA --- further details of the exchange will be elaborated through a written agreement and proper arrangement between Iran and the Vienna group that specifically committed themselves to deliver 120 cages of fuel needed for the Tehran research reactor (TRR)," noted Mottaki.

If the Vienna Group accepts Iran's terms and conditions, Mottaki said, both parties will "commit themselves to the implementation" of the deal, which requires Iran to deposit its LEU in Turkey within one month, and in return, the Vienna group will deliver 120 kg of fuel required for the Tehran reactor in no later than one year.

UPDATE 0755 GMT: How big is this story for Iranian state media? Islamic Republic News Agency, noting that "Ahmadinejad raised his hands in victory", devotes 6 of its top 9 stories to the agreement. (Fars, on the other hand, has not stepped into line: its top story is on British Foreign Secretary William Hague speaking about the assassination of a Hamas official in Dubai.)

UPDATE 0645 GMT: The Iran-Brazil-Turkey agreement is for a swap of uranium outside Iran, and just as signficant, it involves the 1200 kilogrammes of Tehran's stock that the US and "Western" countries were seeking last autumn.
Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said Monday that the Tehran government has agreed to a draft proposal whereby Iran will send some 1200 kg of its 3.5 percent enriched uranium over to Turkey in exchange for a total of 120 kg 20 percent....

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will officially receive a letter with regards to the swap deal "within a week".

According to a Press TV correspondent, the swap will take place nearly a month after receiving official approval from the Vienna Group, which consists of representatives from Iran, France, Russia and the US and the IAEA.

Now watch carefully for the reaction from Washington. If it is favourable, even cautiously favourable, we've got a major breakthrough.

The dominant story in both Iranian and non-Iranian media today is likely to be the announcement between Iran, Brazil, and Turkey of an agreed procedure for a deal on enrichment of Iran's uranium.

No details will be available until later today, so significant questions remain. It is not clear whether Tehran has given any way to the essential demand of the US and other members of the "5+1" (UK, France, Germany, Russia, China) for a swap of uranium outside Iran. Politically, Washington's position --- has it privately supported the Brazilian and Turkish discussions? --- is murky.

The seriousness of the talks, however, is indicated not only by their 17-hour duration on Sunday but also by the level of involvement. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's postponement on Friday of his trip to Iran did not, in the end, mean that Turkey had withdrawn altogether. Rather, this seems to have been a case of wait-and-see: Turkish "ministers" were involved throughout Sunday: once it was clear that an agreement was possible, Erdogan reversed his position and flew to Tehran, joining Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

The core issue is how Iran's 3.5-percent uranium will be exchanged for 20-percent uranium, needed for the Tehran Research Reactor producing medical isotopes.

The Latest from Iran (16 May): Intimidation After the Executions

2115 GMT: Nuclear Twist (cont.). According to Reuters, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu is saying Iran, Turkey, and Brazil have reached agreement on procedure for a uranium swap deal. Details will follow on Monday.

1930 GMT: Nuclear Twist. Reuters is following Turkish television in reporting that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who on Friday had cancelled his trip to Tehran, has reversed his decision and is now in Iran.

The move is a signal that the Iranian talks with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva have put a deal on the table which involves Turkish mediation. Could there also be a role for Turkey as a broker in a uranium swap outside Iran?

NEW Iran Blackout: Shutting Down the Movies
Iran: Last Words of Executed Alamhouli “For God’s Sake, Let Me Hear My Mother’s Voice” (Ghazi)
The Latest from Iran (15 May): Executions, Detentions and a Cancellation

1835 GMT: Intimidation (cont.). In a letter to Sadegh Larijani, the head of Iran's judiciary, 175 members of Parliament have called for immediate action against opposition figures as "heads of sedition”.

In the letter, read out by conservative MP Hassan Ghafouri Fard in the Majlis, the legislators called for “accelerating” the investigation of complaints against Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mahdi Karroubi.

The MPs also state that the “heads of the sedition” have no regard for the judicial system in Iran and have attacked Karroubi and Mousavi for their recent remarks against the sudden and unjust execution of five political activists on charges of terrorism.

1630 GMT: The Brazil Dimension (cont.). The Associated Press has a different take on the Lula-Ahmadinejad talks from other reports (see `1600 GMT). While there was no reference to any discussions on uranium enrichment, there was a defense of Iran's nuclear programme:
Brazilian President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva met with Iranian leaders on Sunday, and called the relationship between the two countries “strategic.”

Speaking in defense of Iran’s right to “independently navigate its course” to seek development and improvement, Silva stressed that a peaceful nuclear research program was within Iran’s sovereign rights.

1600 GMT: The Brazil Dimension. Iranian state media's presentation of today's meetings between President Ahmadinejad and Brazi's Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has featured the two leaders' talk of economic co-operation but said nothing about the nuclear issue. mbitions, an initial joint statement from the two leaders was silent on the subject.A joint statement focused on an increase of two-way trade.

Lula also said Brazil will finance 1 billion Euros of food exports to Iran over the next five years to make trade between the two countries less dependent on foreign banks.

1540 GMT: Sentencing Human Rights Activists (In Absentia). Iran has sentenced award-winning women's rights activist Shadi Sadr and fellow activist Mahbubeh Abbas-Gholizadeh to jail and lashes over a protest in 2007.

The lawyer for the two women, Mohammad Mostafai, said Sadr was sentenced to six years in jail and 74 lashes for acting against national security and harming public order. Abbas-Gholizadeh received two-and-a-half years in jail and 30 lashes on similar charges.

(Read Sadr's article, "Getting to the Point on Detentions and Human Rights", her speech at the UN on abuse, justice, and human rights, or her acceptance of the 2009 Human Rights Defenders Tulip award.)

Both women, who are now abroad, were arrested with 30 other protestors at a rally in March 2007 outside a Revolutionary Court where four fellow feminists were on trial.

1325 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. More on the arrest of Mohsen Armin, spokesman and senior member of the Mojahedin of Islamic Revolution party....

Armin's daughter said security officers, with a search warrant and arrest warrant, took away her father and confiscated his laptop, some documents, and identification cards. Iranian authorities tried to arrest Armin justafter the election and after the Ashura demonstration (27 December), but he was away from home on both occasions.

1200 GMT: Rafsanjani Watch. Hashemi Rafsanjani, former President and current head of the Expediency Council, has condemned censorship and fabrication of facts, describing policies behind these actions as "futile."

Rafsanjani said that, in today’s world, “[We must] coordinate actions with human principles....We must create an open space and fall into step with the rest of the world.”

1110 GMT: Spin of the Week? A reader kindly alerts us to a reference in the Iranian media to the claimed strike in Kurdistan.

Tabnak insists that any news and pictures of empty streets in Kurdistan's cities were just foreign propaganda and claims that thousands of Kurds marched in support of the "Kurdish Leadership Conference".

1100 GMT: No Connection. Move Along. Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast has denied any link between Iran's released of French graduate student Clotilde Reiss, arrested last July, and a French court's acquittal of Iranian businessman Majid Kakavand on charges that he exported US military technology to Iran: "The two cases have absolutely no relation with each other."

1010 GMT:  Political Prisoner Watch. Mohsen Armin, spokesman and senior member of the Mojahedin of Islamic Revolution party, has been arrested.

0930 GMT: In the Universities. Rah-e-Sabz carries a report claiming that professors are now being appointed for their willingness to support the Government line rather than for their academic qualifications.

0900 GMT: Conservatives Defend the System (Against Hardliners). The interesting conflict between "Green Movement v. Government" continues with two statements within the establishment warning of "hardliner" challenges.

Mohammad Nabi Habibi, head of the Motalefeh Party has said, "Our discord is like a red carpet for reformists." Majid Ansari of the Combatant Clergy Association argues that the cooperation of "moderate hardliners" and reformists is not a current outside acceptable Iranian politics.

0855 GMT: Beating the Oil Squeeze? Whatever the outcome of Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's visit to Tehran on the nuclear front, it looks like Iran can claim a success over oil.

The head of Brazil's energy regulator, Haroldo Lima, has said that Lula and Iranian leaders are likely to sign a memorandum opening the way for Brazilian companies to participate in the modernization of Iran's oil sector: "We have equipment, the engineering and the parts for the oil sector that can help in their modernization."

Lima said that, in exchange, Iran could provide Brazil with drills to help in the exploration of deep-water oil: "In Brazil we have a great shortage of companies that have the capacity to do this exploration. They are making drills available."

0845 GMT: Intimidation (cont.). The Resalat newspaper has continued the threat against Mousavi, fed by regime officials like Gholam-Hossein-Elham of the Guardian Council and Tehran Prosecutor General Abbas Jafari Dowlatabadi: the leaders of "fitna" (sedition) need to feel the iron fist of the law.

0800 GMT: Challenge. Mohammad Hashemi, a member of the Expediency Council and brother of Hashemi Rafsanjani, has declared that if the people do not want it, the Iranian system cannot exist.

0740 GMT: Film Corner. As director Jafar Panahi continues to sit in Evin Prison, we've posted a feature on the latest warning by Iranian authorities to actors and filmmakers: don't cooperate with foreigners without permission.

0730 GMT: Economy Watch. Minister of Welfare and Social Security Sadegh Mahsouli has said that the subsidy reduction plan will start this week in three Iranian provinces.

0715 GMT: That Dangerous Foreign Education. Mohammad Shahryari, a member of Parliament's National Security Committee, has confirmed that the committee is reviewing the situation of 400 Iranian students at British universities.

The 400 are the children of Iranian officials. Karim Abedi, another committee member, had said on Friday, "The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has informed Iranian ambassadors abroad to take the actions necessary to prevent the children of Iranian officials from studying at foreign universities."

Shahryari said, "Though no final decision has been made on the return of these children to the country so far, it deems advisable for these people not to study at British universities."

0710 GMT: Speaking of Intimidation.... Member of Parliament Moussa Ghorbani, speaking with Fars News, claims that Sadegh Larijani, the head of Iran's judiciary, has said authorities will pursue those who create “anxiety” in society through text messages.

Ghorbani, who met Larijani on Saturday, said he was told that the judiciary will track down “destructive” text messages which lead to the “anxiety of public opinion”.

0640 GMT: And the Future? Dowlatabadi also gave a lengthy statement about the supposed resolution of 217 post-election cases, and there was further news from his office. Amongst the decisions were the confirmation of six death sentences and the commutation of four to jail terms (see yesterday's updates).

Defenders of the Iranian regime will argue that this establishes the due process and fairness of the judicial system. Those who are more critical may see a carrot-and-stick approach. While giving way on some of the "mohareb" (warriors against God) sentenced to hang, in part because of the reaction to last week's executions and claims that they are linked to political intimidation before 12 June, Tehran is also showing its determination that some protestors will sit on Death Row and could on short notice face the noose.

0620 GMT: A week ago, we were just getting the news of the sudden early-morning executions of 5 Iranians --- Farzad Kamangar, Mehdi Eslamian, Ali Heydarian, Farhad Vakili, and Shirin Alamhouli --- at Evin Prison. Today we begin with the latest attempt to defend the executions, the statement of Tehran Prosecutor General Abbas Jafari Dowlatabadi as reported by Press TV:
[Dowlatabadi] said that three of the five people were arrested in 2006 for carrying five kilograms of explosives, adding that other weapons including 57 rockets and 600 shells were later confiscated from the terrorists.

He revealed that the five began their terrorist activities shortly after the formation of the Party for Free Life in Kurdistan (PJAK) and bombed the governor's office and a state building in the western province of Kermanshah.

“Fortunately they were arrested before carrying out a planned bombing in Tehran.”

Dolatabadi said that the five had been indicted in 2007 and were tried and found guilty in 2008. “They appealed the verdict but the Supreme Court upheld their convictions.”

The prosecutor said that four of the five terrorists were PJAK members and had been directly involved in the terrorist attacks carried out by the group. He added that the four had been convicted of moharebe (waging war on God) and acting against national security.

According to Dolatabadi, the only woman among the four terrorists was arrested in 2008 for an attempted bombing in an IRGC base. “She was tried and found guilty in 2008 and her conviction was upheld in 2010.”

The last of the five was a member of the counterrevolutionary Tondar group and was convicted for complicity in a deadly bombing in the city of Shiraz in 2008, the prosecutor added.

None of Dowlatabadi's assertions above, or in a longer version of the interview in Fars News, are backed up by evidence, thus leaving open the queries that remain over the case (see Thursday's updates).

Just as interesting, however, as Press TV still refuses to name the five executed is the timing of Dowlatabadi's high-profile interview. If the Iranian regime is so secure that these executions were acceptable, in law or in public opinion, why is it continuing to plead the case several days later?

The Latest from Iran (15 May): Executions, Detentions and a Cancellation

1900 GMT: Punishing Panahi. Rah-e-Sabz reports that, as punishment for the publication of his letter to the organisers of the Cannes Film Festival (see yesterday's updates), detained film director Jafar Panahi's stay in "temporary prison" has been extended by two months.

1820 GMT: The Nuclear Non-Story (clarification). Borzou Daragahi pulls us up on our criticism of his Los Angeles Times article on Iran's nuclear programme, a day after a Reuters story over "a move which shows Tehran seeking to enhance its atomic work" (0800 GMT):

NEW Iran: Last Words of Executed Alamhouli “For God’s Sake, Let Me Hear My Mother’s Voice” (Ghazi)
Iran Analysis: The Economic Squeeze and the Real Sanctions Story (Colvin)
UPDATED Iran Special: Executions, Politics, and the Attack on Nazila Fathi and The New York Times
The Latest from Iran (15 May): Executions, Detentions and a Cancellation

"The story published today did not refer to the new-generation centrifuges that Ahmadinejad has already trumpeted numerous times. It referred to the addition of an additional cascade of (presumably old-fashioned) centrifuges placed inside the 20% enrichment hall. This is something that had not been previously reported."

My apology that I missed this distinction, which was made in the Reuters report. The Los Angeles Times article, however, does not make the distinction clear, saying only, "Iran has expanded the number of machines producing medical reactor-grade uranium."

But here's the key point: even if we note that Reuters is referring to an additional cascade of older centrifuges, there is no dramatic "nuclear threat" story here, irrespective of the whispers of unnamed Western diplomats. From the Reuters article:

Iran has been using one set or "cascade" of 164 centrifuge machines to refine small amounts of uranium to up to 20 percent purity, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency's last report in February.

But a system using just one cascade is inefficient, analysts said, as it produces a large proportion of leftover low-enriched uranium (LEU) alongside the sought-after highly enriched material.

In recent weeks Iranian officials have been adding a second cascade at the Natanz pilot plant to allow the leftover material to be re-fed into the machines more easily, obtaining its full potential and making the work more efficient, diplomats said.

"The second cascade is aimed at supporting the work of the first," a Western diplomat said....

The changes do not appear be aimed at increasing the amounts produced or to raise the enrichment level further, moves which would ring alarm bells, diplomats said. But they said the second cascade could be reconfigured to do this should Iran decide to.

So in other words, Iran --- suffering a shortage of 20% enriched uranium to keep its medical research reactor operational --- is taking the logical step of trying to produce more stock by adding the second cascade. The jump to a higher enrichment for military use exists only in the speculation of the Western diplomats.

1655 GMT: Prisoner Swap? Earlier today we reported that French graduate student Clotilde Reiss, arrested in July and confined on bail to the French Embassy in Iran since August, will be able to leave Iran after paying a $285,000 fine.

Radio Farda raises another possible reason for the decision to let Reiss go. It notes that Majid Kakavand, an Iranian detained in France on accusations he purchased technology over the Internet to sell to Iran's military, was not extradited to the US and is now back in Iran.

1650 GMT: The Hijab Issue. Ayatollah Mohammad Hossein Fazlollah has pronounced that wearing of hijab is not an area for the governbment but is a personal issue. Now, as Fazlollah is Lebanese, that may not be earth-shattering: what goes in Beirut may not apply in Tehran.

The location of the interview, however, does raise an eyebrow: it is the "conservative" Khabar Online.

1640 GMT: The Oil Squeeze. Parleman News reports that members of Parliament --- almost 1/5 of the Majlis --- have asked Minister of Oil Masoud Mirkazemi about problems in his area. Mirkazemi's answers were not accepted last time;if they are turned down three times, he may be impeached.

1635 GMT: Economy Watch. Mus al-Reza Servati, a member of Parliament's Planning and Budget Commission, has complained that --- two months into the Iranian year --- the government's budget has not been passed to its administration.

1620 GMT:Today's Death Sentences and More. Agence France Presse has summarised the sentences announced by Tehran Prosecutor General Abbas Jafari Dowlatabadi and his office:

*Death sentences for six protestors have been confirmed.

Three of those sentenced to die --- Mohammad Ali Saremi, Jafar Kazemi, and Mohammad-Ali Haj-Aghai --- were arrested in September. Three --- Ahmad Daneshpour Moghadam, Mohsen Daneshpour Moghadam and Alireza Ghanbari --- were arrested on Ashura (27 December). All six are accused of belonging to the People's Mujahideen Organisation of Iran, the political wing of the "terrorist" Mojahedin-e-Khalq (MKO). the opposition group the Islamic republic's regime calls "the hypocrites."

*Three other people arrested on Ashura --- Motahare Bahrami Haqiqi, Reyhane Haj Ebrahim, and Hadi Qaemi --- have been sentenced to jail after an appeal court overturned their death sentences.

*A death sentence against student Mohammad Amin Valian has been reduced to three-and-a-half years by an appeal court.

*Azar Mansouri, a senior leader of the reformist Islamic Iran Participation Front, has been given a three-year prison term in an appeal court. Reformist journalist Masoud Bastani has been sentenced to six years.

1610 GMT: Today's All-is-Well Moment. You might think that the cancellation by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of his trip to Iran (see 0545 GMT) would have put a dent in Iran's rhetoric over a possible deal on uranium enrichment.

Nope, not if you're Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast: "It would have been better for Erdogan if he could have been physically in Tehran but in the era of communications, there are other ways to stay in touch."

Mehmanparast played up the not-cancelled visit of Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva: "Concerning the negotiations, I believe the conditions are conducive to reach a serious agreement over the swap deal."

1600 GMT: Mousavi Watch. Make of this what you will: the public statements of Mir Hossein Mousavi appear to have increased in frequency and intensity recently.

Meeting with teachers and clerics of seminaries for the anniversary of the martyrdom of Fatemeh, daughter of Prophet Mohammad, Mousavi said: “If a system claims to be Islamic....[it] should truly pay attention to the way [Prophet Mohammad] treat people and make that their role model.” Mousavi continued:

Now the question of the people is whether the path taken by those in power, who claim to be Muslim and followers of Islam but then lie, has any compatibility with the path of Fatemeh (peace be upon her), whose title Sadigheh means honestly and staying away from wrongdoings and slightest lies....Would the prophet [Mohammad] that we know ever have made such prisons in the territory of Islamic and religious state?

Mousavi then linked the Green Movement to the virtues of the Prophet Mohammad and his family:
Some people gave us the idea of choosing the colour Green in one of the campaign trips Ms. Rahnavard and I had to the holy city of Mashahd, with religious intentions. Therefore this shows the link of this movement to the verdure, beauty and spirituality of our religion and the family of the prophet Mohammad; we considered this as a good sign and, because of the respect of the people for the family of Prophet Mohammad, this colour and Green Wave have become so popular among the people....

The Green Movement has roots in our religious thoughts and as long as the Green Movement is in this path the people of our country support it.

1240 GMT: Damocles' Sword for 12 June. In Khabar Online's account of today's interview with Tehran Prosecutor General Abbas Jafari Dowlatabadi (see 0950 GMT), there is a clear warning for Mir Hossein Mousavi. Dowlatabadi says that his office continues to collect evidence on Mousavi, in anticipation of a prosecution if Mousavi does not curb his opposition.

1130 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. As EA readers note in comments below, Clotilde Reiss, the French graduate student, arrested in July for participation in demonstrations, will be allowed to leave Iran upon the payment of $285,000.

Reiss' lawyer Mohammad Ali Mahdavi Sabet said, "There has been a court verdict which is not an acquittal but will enable her to leave the country."

Reiss was released on bail in August and confined to the French Embassy.

0950 GMT: Death Sentences. An Iranian activist reports that the Iranian judiciary has ruled on death sentences for 10 political prisoners, detained over the Ashura demonstrations, for "mohareb" (war against God): three were overturned, three upheld, two charges were dropped, and two cases are pending.

Meanwhile, Tehran Prosecutor General Abbas Jafari Dowlatabadi has attempted again to defend Sunday's execution of five Iranians, four of them Kurdish. Dowlatabadi's interview with Fars News follows that newspaper's publication of the "official" report on the case from Dowlatabadi's office (see the critique in Thursday's updates).

0825 GMT: Non-Story (cont.). We're watching to see if this dramatic non-news makes it into general circulation, "US Space Planes 'Worry Iran'".

0800 GMT: Non-Story of the Day? We noticed the breathless report from Reuters yesterday:
Iran has been setting up extra equipment which could improve the way it enriches uranium to higher levels, diplomats said, a move which shows Tehran seeking to enhance its atomic work as big powers discuss new sanctions.

Iran first started enriching small amounts of uranium to higher levels in February, saying it wanted to make fuel for a medical research reactor. This raised Western suspicion as Iran is seen to lack the ability to make the fuel assemblies needed.

I did not mention this in updates, as I hoped this pretence at an exclusive would just go away. Unfortunately, the Los Angeles Times has not been so judicious:
Iran has expanded the number of machines producing medical reactor-grade uranium, an incremental step that could increase its ability to produce the highly refined material necessary to build a nuclear bomb, said two diplomats in Vienna, home of the U.N. atomic watchdog agency.

The disclosure, first revealed by news agencies Friday, ups pressure on diplomats struggling to find a resolution of the confrontation between Tehran and the United States, Israel and their European allies over the nuclear program.

Beyond the standard ritual of using unnamed sources as the basis for sweeping claims, the story is not very new: a named, non-Western source --- a Mr. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad --- declared Iran's plans to construct a new generation of centrifuges. These would produce the 20-percent uranium needed for the Tehran medical reactor.

Of course, what is distinctive about Reuters' story is not the content but the timing: it comes out in the context of chatter and pressure, both in response to Ahmadinejad's own move in New York at the United Nations Nuclear Non-Proliferation Conference and as part of a publicly-renewed effort for tougher sanctions on Iran.

0630 GMT: We have posted, in a separate entry, Fereshteh Ghazi's report on the last moments of Shirin Alamhouli during her sudden, unexpected execution. Ghazi concludes, "A regime such as this must live in fear. Even the dead haunt it."

0545 GMT: A purported letter from Saeed Massouri on death row in Gohardasht Prison:
In the midst of the country’s serious turmoil, I learnt of the execution of my late-found friends and acquaintances from prison with whom we spent years in the jail cells of Ward 209 [at Evin Prison].

Perhaps they [the regime] think that by executing them, they have managed to frighten us and our people. But shame on us if instead of being more motivated [to continue the struggle against the regime], the execution of our friends and countrymen and compatriots were to frighten us. Indeed, what is to be done at a time when people have no other fate but imprisonment, torture and execution simply for being human; and when this is the price to pay for the slightest attempt to be free and have humanity? Where do those who remain silent in the face of such crimes draw the line between being human or not?....

For my own part, I want to be clear on the degree of fear that these executions really instilled in me: I declare that after the hanging of these five, I am more than ready to be the sixth one to kiss the hangman's noose.

Long live their memory and that of all those whose blood runs through the veins of history.

“The frenzy of the flame subsides only as ashes/Such is what needs to be done to live honourably”

Our updates have been filled this week with a steady stream of new interrogations and arrests, including Kurdish teachers and activists following the execution of 5 Iranians almost a week ago. The latest news is that Kurdish author and civil rights activist Ali Mahomoodi, arrested on 27 September, has been sentenced to six years in prison without possibility of appeal.

On the international front, the significant but largely unnoticed news is that Turkish Recep Tayyip Erdogan has cancelled this week's trip to Iran. Tehran had been trumpeting the news that Erdogan's visit, coinciding with the arrival of Brazilian President Luiz Ignacio Lula da Silva, would be the occasion for an important round of talks for a uranium enrichment deal.

Erdogan told reporters on Friday, "It seems that a trip to Iran on Monday is no longer possible for me as Iran has not taken that step on the issue. If necessary my foreign minister may go, or I may go later." Erdoğan asked "for a statement of determination" from the Iranians.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev poured more cold water on the possibility of a breakthrough during Lula's attendance at a summit of non-aligned nations in Iran this week: "You want me to give the odds on President Lula. Okay. As my friend the Brazilian president is an optimist, I shall also be an optimist. I give 30 percent."

Lula, asked about his chances of success on a scale of one to 10, had replied, "I would give 9.9."

Iran has freed an Iraqi soldier captured during a border skirmish on Thursday.

The Latest from Iran (8 May): Back to the Politics

2045 GMT: One to Watch. Khabar Online reports that Seyed Hassan Khomeini, the grandson of Ayatollah Khomeini and a cleric with uneasy relations with the current Government, will speak before Tehran Friday Prayers this week.

2025 GMT: More Rahim-Mashai. President Ahmadinejad's Chief of Staff Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai, having declared that his boss is "the teacher of all Presidents of the world", is now insisting that he has no additional posts. Unfortunately for him, Khabar Online accompanies the denial with the list of 16 offices that Rahim-Mashai heads.

2020 GMT: Setting Limits? Mohammad Javad Larijani, a high-level official in Iran's judiciary, has responded to talk of a prolongation of the Ahmadinejad presidency: "It is against the nezam , and I strongly object."

NEW Iran: The Green Movement and “Moral Capital” (Jahanbegloo)
Iran: Ahmadinejad’s Chief Aide “Not Too Many People in the Prisons”
The Latest from Iran (7 May): The Original Post-Election Muddle

2010 GMT: Maintaining Hope. Grand Ayatollah Sane'i, meeting with academics, said: “One should not lose hope; because the Almighty’s will is for eliminating oppression. The day will come that those standing against people’s rights and all those hurt people will be fed up with their own actions, and I am hopeful that their moral and spiritual conscience will wake up and they will stop these actions. It is your responsibility to spread awareness among people and expand this awareness so that the deceivers and violators of people’s rights realize that people are aware of their deceptions and also are opposed to their deceptions, but you should spread awareness based on Islamic and religious teachings.”

1650 GMT: Not-Sycophantic-At All Remark of the Day. The President's Chief of Staff Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai commenting on his boss: "He is a teacher to the Presidents of the world".

1610 GMT: The Oil Ultimatum. Minister of Oil Masoud Mirkazemi has repeated the threat that Iran will expel foreign firms for delaying development of the South Pars gas field, replacing them with domestic companies: "We have recently told some foreign firms which have delayed some phases for several years that we would not negotiate with them and domestic firms will be given these projects to implement."

Mirkazemi did not name any foreign company, but South Pars officials have recently insisted that Royal Dutch Shell and the Spanish company Repsol commit by the end of May to development of sections of the field. Shell, citing the prospect of Western sanctions, has suspended any operations in South Pars.

1555 GMT: Trouble for the Rafsanjani Family? An appeals court has upheld the prison sentence of Hamzeh Karami, accused of propaganda and embezzlement.

The decision prompts speculation that pressure, including the prospect of criminal prosecution, will increase upon Mehdi Hashemi, the son of former President Hashemi Rafsanjani. In the mass Tehran trial last August, Karami's "confession" accused Hashemi of misusing funds to carry out inappropriate activity during the Presidential campaign.

1545 GMT: Karroubi Watch. In a discussion on another website, an EA reader frets that we are "especially enthralled with [Mehdi] Karroubi, who is treated with saint like reverence".

Heaven forbid that we should appear biased, so here's Karroubi's latest acts of deviousness, duplicity, and devilishness.

The cleric, visiting the family of Alireza Beheshti Shirazi, the detained journalist and senior adviser of Mir Hossein Mousavi, has criticised Iran's authorities for continued arrests of dissidents and urged them to show greater tolerance. He said, “The Revolution and the Islamic Republic is not what these gentlemen are carrying out and it is our duty to return the Islamic Republic to its right path.”

Karroubi also carried out the despicable act of visiting Ahmad Motamedi, the Minister of Communications in the Khatami Government, in hospital. Motamedi was stabbed early this week in his office at Amir Kabir University.

Motamedi's wife, Fatemeh Azhdari, threatened to reveal “the truth” if "wrongful" reports regarding the attack on his husband’s life continue. Se claimed that authorities are trying to reduce the “assassination attempt” against her husband to a crime with “personal motivations”.

1400 GMT: War on Culture (cont.). It's not just the regime favourite Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami getting tough on cultural infiltration (see 0730 GMT). Grand Ayatollah Nasser Makarem-Shirazi has urged the formation of a Ministry of Virtue: "A ministry to call upon virtue and ban vice must be formed to deal with moral issues in schools, universities and media."

Makarem-Shirazi said the root cause of society's ills was a lack of supervision on moral issues: "When importance is not attached to moral issues, political and economical problems arise and decadence spreads in the form of lack of hejab and an increase in drug abuse."

1355 GMT: Getting the News. EA colleagues have pointed out the portal for Iran news (in case EA is on a break, of course), Kodoom.

1150 GMT: Nuclear Chatter. Iranian officials continue to put out signals that Turkey and/or Brazil could broker a deal on uranium enrichment. Following Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki's visit to Ankara, Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said, "New formulas have been raised about the exchange of fuel....I think we can arrive at practical agreements on these formulas."

1145 GMT: And the Imprisoned Students. Radio Zamaneh follows up on the published list of 32 detained students, which we noted earlier this week. According to the site, 24 of the detained students have been handed a total of 71 years in prison, one has been sentenced to execution, and the situation of the rest is unknown.

Mahmoud Molabashi, the Deputy Minister of Science, told reporters last week that only a “very limited number of students” are currently in prison.

1130 GMT: The Detained Filmmakers. A Street Journalist features Amnesty International's call for the release of the detained film directors Mohammad Ali Shirzadi and Jafar Panahi.

1000 GMT: Stirring Discontent. Parleman News reports that Hojatoleslam Ravanbakhsh, a supporter of Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi, "insulted" Grand Ayatollah Yusuf Sane'i during a talk at Kerman University, angering professors and students.

0940 GMT: More Pressure. Seyed Reza Akrami of the Combatant Clergy Association has called for all budgets of the Iranian system (nezam) to be transparent and published.

0803 GMT: Reformist Economics. Reviewing the approach to privatisation of the Iranian economy, member of Parliament Mostafa Kavakebian declared that the Government has "fattened itself" rather than becoming lean. Mohammad Reza Khabbaz said that the regime's slogan of "shares of justice" (equal distribution) should be "shares of injustice".

0800 GMT: Morning Analysis. We've posted a special feature with the views of Professor Ramin Jahanbegloo on the Green Movement and "moral capital".

0730 GMT: A quiet Friday weekend in Iran, after both the Ahmadinejad show in New York and the internal politics earlier in the week....

Ahmad Khatami Fights Culture

Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami did liven up the day a bit with his Tehran Friday Prayer. We noted yesterday his religious lesson of "a punch in the mouth" for other countries who troubled Iran. Rah-e-Sabz has a different snapshot, with Khatami claiming that the regime has defeated the opposition but warning of "the effects of [an] invasion in the areas of film, theater, sports, and some media".

The website also summarises other Friday Prayers throughout Iran.

International Front: Opening the Door to the US?

An interesting analysis in Rah-e-Sabz, which suggests that the Ahmadinejad trip to New York was designed to maintain the possibility of discussions with the US Government over the nuclear issue. The website concludes, however, that the final decision on the strategy is up to the Supreme Leader.

Of course, Rah-e-Sabz is an opposition website, but this reading matches up with our interpretation from last autumn, when Ahmadinejad was backing the effort for a deal on "third party enrichment" of uranium. That effort stalled in late October, in part because of internal divisions in Iran, and our analysis was that Ayatollah Khamenei had balked at an agreement.

Getting It Wrong on the Economy

Aftab News reports that the Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, Abdolreza Sheikholeslami, made "confused statements" at a national workers' meeting in Mashhad. Sheikholeslami alllegedly claimed that unemployment was due to the vagaries of science and did not bother to consider the workers' problems.