Friday September 4 – the daily story

The main headlines

If it wasn’t already obvious, the cat was let out of the bag today when Mohammad Reza Bahonar, deputy Majlis speaker, confirmed that Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, had personally put pressure on MPs to back President Ahmedinajed’s cabinet selections. In what was seen as a deliberate attempt to explain why the vote was more conclusive than originally predicted, Bahonar told the ISNA news agency that without Khamenei’s backing eight or nine nominees would have been rejected in Thursday’s confidence vote. “The message of the leader played a big role,” Bahonar said. “This was not an order at all, but a consultative and friendly view which compelled the lawmakers to work more tolerantly with the government.”  link, link

— Another sign of the dramatic shift brought about by the note was that Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani held a joint press conference with Ahmadinejad shortly before the voting began in which he praised the President’s suggestion for regular meetings between ministers and MPs. Larijani had started the marathon Majlis debate clearly at odds with the President. At the same press conference Ahmadinejad hailed a new chapter in cooperation between government and the Majlis. link

— The United States said Iran was “taking a step backward” by appointing Ahmad Vahidi , wanted for terrorism in Argentina, as Defence Minister. The State Department said the appointment was “disturbing”. link The decision has also caused predictable outrage in Argentina. link

Amnesty International says Caspian Makan has told his family that he is being forced to sign a “confession” that his fiancé, Neda Agha Soltan, the young woman shot dead  during the recent protests, was killed by the outlawed Mujahedin Khalq.  A report posted today says Makan was arrested June 26 after making a statement linking her murder to the Basij and is being held in Evin prison. link

— The daughter of the jailed reformist Said Hajarian said a letter published by Iranian news agencies purporting to be written by her father, praising his care, was a forgery written by his interrogators, the Tehran Bureau website reports. Zeinab Hajarian said the writing style was a complete giveaway, in the same manner as his “confession” statement at the show trial. She emphasised that neither she, her family, nor Hajarian’s lawyer had yet been allowed to see  him and there was no way of knowing his precise state of health. link

Grand Ayatollahs Montazeri and Sanei met today and expressed their deep concern over the current situation in the country, according to Montazeri’s Facebook page. It said the two  once again condemned the illegal arrests of innocent people after the election and at the end they prayed for the release of political prisoners and for the country to be saved from the current crisis. photos

— Ayatollah Mohammad Emami Kashani called on Iran’s factions on Friday to end post-election infighting or face the danger that it  would “lead to a fire which hurts everyone”. Instead he said at Tehran’s Friday prayers ceremony they should concentrate on exporting Iran’s revolution instead. link

— Mashad Friday prayers leader, Hojatoleslam Ahmad Alamolhoda, said Iran’s scientific achievements were far more important than exaggerating the odd “unintentional tap” from a basij baton. link

In a blow to the reformist movement Hassan Khomeini, keeper of his grandfather’s mausoleum in Tehran, has bowed to hardline pressure and cancelled the annual Ihya ceremonies due to be held at the shrine, for the first time since they were instituted 20 years ago. The rouydadnews website said he had come under heavy pressure including “threats on the family of Imam Khomeini”. Again by tradition one of the three speakers is former president Ayatollah Mohammad Khatami and the hardliners appear to have feared that this year’s event, which was to have been attended by all reformist leaders, could have brought out millions of protesters. According to the reliable Pedestrian blog, Hassan Khomeini was being told to install hardline clerics Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, Ayatollah Janati and the President to deliver the three nights of sermons. link

— Tehran municipality has closed down another potential focus of protest, cancelling the Eid-e Fetr prayer ceremony marking the end of Ramadan at the giant Mossalla prayer centre in north Tehran. According to Farda news Mohammad Eidian, the official responsible for the prayers, said the centre was closed for restoration and construction. It will be held  at the much smaller Tehran University prayer grounds instead.

— This leaves the reformist movement turning its attention to the nationwide demonstrations for Palestine on Qods Day, September 18,  On his Facebook site Mir-Hossein Moussavi has invited the entire world to join in an “international green Qods day” starting in Iran at 10am. “This year the Iranian nation invites the world, and especially the oppressed Palestinian nation, to be Green, to wear Green, and to think Green in solidarity with us, the Green. Our message for this Qods Day is: Stop the assault!”

The fortieth day memorial ceremony was held at Vali-Asr mosque in Tehran for Mohsen Ruholamini, whose death in detention sparked the current controversy over prison abuse. The memorial was attended by Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani, Mohammad Hossein Saffar Harandi, the former Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance, and many hardliners who played a role in the crackdown after the election. The way the ceremony was  facilitated by the authorities – his father is a prominent conservative figure and former campaign manager for Mohsen Rezai – contrasted sharply with the attempts to repress most mourning ceremonies for other victims. However Mir-Hossein Moussavi’s Facebook page carried a report on another mourning ceremony for the fortieth anniversary of the death of another less publicised victim, Amir Javadifar. video, link

Iran accused the US of using “forged documents” and relying on subterfuge to make its case that Tehran is trying to build a nuclear weapon, in a confidential letter by Iran’s chief envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency and sent to the UN agency in Vienna. link

— The European Union said Iran had to choose between EU assistance for peaceful development of nuclear power or tougher sanctions if it failed to abandon its suspected nuclear weapons programme. link

Student websites are reporting that disciplinary committees in major universities are calling students suspected of participating in post-election protests to appear before them. link

Egypt has accused a leading Shia cleric and 12 others of  receiving funding from Tehran in order to promote “extremist” Shia doctrines in the country. link

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman is leading a large business and military mission on  a charm offensive of Africa’s key capitals aimed at countering Iran’s rising influence. link

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