Tuesday August 4 – the daily story

Ahmadinejad is the boss, says White House — The United States has confirmed that it recognises Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as the elected leader of Iran.  Robert Gibbs, the White House spokesman, called Ahmadinejad the “elected leader” of Iran today when he was asked if President Obama recognised the Iranian President. He said:  “This was a decision and a debate ongoing in Iran by Iranians, they were going to choose their leadership. He’s the elected leader.” Although Obama has criticised the post election crackdown, he has steered clear of saying anything about the legitimacy of the election itself.  Gibbs did make it clear to journalists, however, that Obama had no intention of congratulating Ahmadinejad on  his “victory”. “I don’t have any reason to believe we will send any letter,” he said.

It is unlikely many western countries will send felicitations to Ahmadinejad, but they face an issue Obama is saved from: he doesn’t have to decide whether to send a diplomat to tomorrow’s presidential inauguration ceremony at the Majlis. It appeared tonight that most countries would attend, even Britain, still at odds with Iran over the arrest of Iranian staff from the British embassy in Tehran. All are now free but one is on  bail pending trial. Today Downing Street said Britain would be sending a diplomat to the ceremony, but Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister, will not congratulate Ahmadinejad. Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, had announced she had no intention  of contratulating him either “in view of his controversial re-election”, and the French followed suit. Although a German diplomat did attend Monday’s endorsement ceremony (so did the UK), Merkel is said to be undecided whether to have a diplomat attend on Wednesday. All in all, however, the European response is a far cry from the threats being issued last month of refusing visas to Iranian diplomats trying to enter Europe. forexpros.com, Reuters, Reuters, M&C

Moussavi aide arrested — Mohammad Hassanzadeh, the manager of GhalamNews, the official website of Mir-Hossein Moussavi, during the presidential election campaign, was arrested today at his office, according to a message on Moussavi’s facebook page.  The message, quoting a report by on the Parleman News website, said his personal ci computer had also been taken. “It is said the reason for his arrest is his involvement with this website.” Hassanzadeh is the head of Moussavi’s publicity and Information committee.

The arrest comes amidst continuing hardline calls for legal action against the reformist leaders themselves. The latest was Javad Karimi-Qodusi, a member of the National Security Commission, who today demanded that Mohammad Khatami be banned from leaving the country until further notice. Qodusi said it was likely Khatami would seek asylum in a foreign country to avoid prosecution. Last week President Ahmadinejad promised a settling of scores with the opposition after the inauguration and, on Saturday, Tehran MP Hamid Rasavi said the mass trial of protesters would pave the way for action against “the real riot leaders”.  Facebook, PressTV

Head of special prison committee quits — Kazem Jalali, spokesman of the National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, today confirmed that he had resigned from  his position as head of a special committee investigating post-election detentions.  Jalali denied media speculation that his decision was caused by attempts to frustrate  the committee’s work, but gave no alternative explanation.  In a statement he said: “I hereby dismiss certain media analysis about my resignation,” adding that the speculation was part of the psychological battle being waged against  the Islamic Republic. He added that he had not intended his decision to become public. Earlier, Alaeddin Borujerdi, who heads the security commission and is also on the special committee, had described reports of Jalali’s resignation as baseless. According to PressTV  those reports had claimed Jalali was pushed to the brink by obstacles put in the committee’s way.

In his statement Jalali said the 10-member committee visited section 209 of Evin prison, which was under the complete supervision of the Intelligence Ministry and not the Revolutionary  Guards. No one they saw there was  mistreated, tortured or abused. He rejected claims of harsh conditions in the jail , saying that the prisoners were only upset about the length of their detention without any guidance on their fate.

Separately, the National Security Council said officials responsible for the harsh conditions at the Kahrizak detention centre ordered closed by Ayatollah Khamenei would be relieved from duty and prosecuted. “All guilty parties, be they high-ranking officials, security and judiciary authorities will be relieved of their responsibilities.” PressTV, PressTV

14 firms to be ‘privatised’ — Some 14 of Iran’s biggest state-owned companies are to be “privatised” under an order approved by President Ahmadinejad on Monday. In all 40 per cent of each company will be sold at prevailing market prices, with the shares earmarked for the “Justice Shares” scheme for distribution to the country’s lowest earners. The report does not make clear if another 40 per cent of shares will also be floated for general purchase, as was required by Ayatollah Khamenei in a 2006 directive. The companies include: National Iranian Gas Company, National Petrochemical Company, Iran Air, Iranian Oil Terminals Company, Iranian Tobacco Company, National Iranian Oil Products Distribution Company.

This represents the second phase of the privatisation programme being pursued by Ahmadinejad as “one of his key economic policies”.  PressTV says hundreds of companies have already gone down this road, following the provisions of the amended article 44 of the Constitution,  and quotes Shamsoldin Hosseini, the Economy Minister, as claiming recently that some 23 million “villagers” had so far received the shares.

PressTV, however, has also highlighted complaints by workers representatives that they have not actually received any of the Justice Shares, noting that the company responsible for distributing them is due to be wound up next month. Ali Akbar Eyvazi, a Tehran province labour representative,  said:  “Workers are still waiting for Justice Shares.”  Valiollah Salehi, another workers’ representative, also said a majority of workers have not received Justice Shares.  “At present, only working women who are in charge of families, and the pensioners who receive social welfare benefit from these shares.”   According to the report, unhappiness over the programme is compounded by the fact that a large number of workers are still earning poverty wages well below the official minimum wage.  The report quoted the Islamic Labour News Agency as saying the situation had lead to spreading protests by workers.

The share privatisation scheme has also been criticised because, while there is no guarantee of any dividends, many of the companies are virtually insolvent.  PressTV, PressTV, Wikipedia

ILNA website ‘contains malicious software’ — Google has today begun  blocking access to the semi-official  Iranian Labour News Agency and posting a warning  that “this site may harm your computer”.  A diagnostic page issued by Google on the site said that when it tested the site today, “of the 200 pages we tested …  143 resulted in malicious software being downloaded and installed without user consent.  ..  Malicious software includes 202 scripting exploits, 202 trojans and  202 exploits. Successful infection resulted in an average of 3 new processes on the target machine. Malicious software is hosted on 5 domains, including game158.info/, a0v.org/, wowyesgo.info/. Two domains appear to be functioning as intermediaries for distributing malware to visitors of this site, including a0v.org/, game158.info/.”

The Google page suggested the possibility that the malicious code was added by a third party, “which would cause us to show the warning message”. ILNA, according to Wikipedia, was set up in 2003 to cover labour affairs. It “belongs to the Workers’ House, a labour union set up by the Iranian government. It is considered close to the Iranian reform movement.” The entry says that in 2006 it was barred from covering press conferences held by Ahmadinejad and some ministries because of negative coverage. It is not clear if the bar is still in place. Google

In other news:

Mehdi Karroubi’s office issued a statement saying the Fars news agency report that he got out of his car, made a speech and joined yesterday’s demonstrations was an “outright lie”. “Karroubi did not take part in any demonstration on Monday afternoon.” PressTV

Fahimeh Moussavinejed, the wife Mohammad Abtahi, has said her husband was forced into confessing to a plot to topple the government, adding that when she saw him  two days before the trial he appeared drugged. AP

Etemade-e Melli, the newspaper of Mehdi Karroubi, has been given a written warning by the  Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance  for publishing “untrue reports and the appearance of numerous articles constantly questioning the legal process of the tenth presidential election”. The ministry said the daily should consider the ‘interests” of the country and the Islamic establishment when publishing articles.  The warning appears to be part of a wider crackdown on negative reporting of the current trial of more than 100 people detained in  the recent protests. PressTV

Kayhan, the hardline newspaper close to Ayatollah Khamenei that has been critical of President Ahmadinejad, has hailed his endorsement for a second term. “What we saw yesterday shows the divine legitimacy of the president,” an editorial said. AFP

Azerbaijani police are holding two employees of Iran’s state broadcaster at Lankaran accused  of being in the country illegally. Producer Shaban-Ali Keyvani and cameraman Massoud Vaezi claim to have visas issued by the Azerbaijan embassy in Tehran, and to have paid the equivalent of about $750 demanded by the police, to no avail. PressTV


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