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Iran admits hurt by high domestic oil consumption

by Staff Writers
Tehran (AFP) Sept 9, 2007
High domestic consumption is harming Iran's oil industry on top of international financial pressures linked to its nuclear programme, a top oil official was quoted as saying on Sunday.

"The consumption of energy is very high, efficiency is low. There is no energy saving and consumption habits and low prices are harmful," Iran's representative to OPEC, Hossein Kazempour Ardebili, said in an interview with the weekly magazine Shahrvand.

"This is all based on figures and statistics and cannot be disputed. The government is responsible and should be held accountable," he added.

Last month former oil minister Kazem Vaziri Hamaneh said after being sacked by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that Iran faced a "crisis" in its oil industry if its consumption was not dampened.

Iran is seeking to rein in the frenzied consumption of its highly subsidised petrol by motorists through a rationing scheme. But it is still forced to import around 30 million litres a day to make up for shortfalls in refined oil.

A widely reported study published in December by the academic Roger Stern of Johns Hopkins University in the United States said Iran could soon face its own energy crunch owing to failing infrastructure and lack of investment.

But Kazempour Aredebili denied that international pressures against the Iranian economy over its controversial nuclear programme were reducing the clout of the number two producer in OPEC.

"They (the West) are claiming that Iran is not important and that the sanctions tool against Iran is working and if they continue it for a few more years Iran will quickly become paralyzed.

"Their actions are continuing but we do not have problems since we are aware of their intentions."

European banks have drastically cut down business with Iran in recent months in response to a US drive to pressure Iran financially, complicating Iranian efforts to find much needed investment for oil projects.

"What I can add that that Iran is doing its best to attract possibilities (of investment) from the world though it is faced with restrictions," said Kazempour Ardebili.

He said the government was combating the problems through long-term development plans and 200 new projects in the oil and gas sectors would become operational by 2012.

related report
Iran, Russia still talking on nuclear plant completion
Tehran (AFP) Sept 9 - Iran on Sunday said it was still holding discussions with Russia to agree a date for the completion of its first nuclear power plant, a much delayed project being built by Russian engineers.

"Discussions are continuing about Bushehr (nuclear power plant) and until these are concluded we cannot say exactly when the power station will be completed," foreign ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini told reporters.

Russia started work on the plant in the southern city of Bushehr in 1995 but completion has been delayed amid Russian complaints Iran is not paying on time and Iranian accusations the United States wants to derail the whole project.

The plant is a cornerstone of Iran's controversial nuclear programme, which Tehran insists is solely aimed at providing electricity for a growing population but the United States says masks an atomic weapons drive.

Despite the problems, Iran is now insisting that Russia is committed to finishing the plant and providing the required nuclear fuel as outlined in previous agreements.

"We need to wait for the end of negotiations but the important thing is the willingness of the Russians to finish the power station," Hosseini added.

Iran's top nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani said that the talks were proceeding on the level of "experts".

"There is agreement at the level of experts, including over the sending of nuclear fuel, and this still has to be finanlised by the leaders of the two countries," he said in an interview with state television.

"I think that if this is signed and finalised in the next six months, much will be done. If it is achieved in the next six months, it is a good thing," he added.

Russian officials have said in recent days that talks will continue until the problems that have appeared over the past six months are resolved and a timetable has still not been fixed for the completion of the plant.

According to Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, the issue of the Bushehr plant will be discussed during an upcoming visit to Tehran by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The presidents of the five countries bordering on the Caspian Sea -- Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Iran, Russia and Turkmenistan -- are to meet in Tehran on October 16, Iranian officials have said.

Source: Agence France-Presse
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Protests as BBC scraps planned green day
London (AFP) Sept 6, 2007
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