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'Not on the agenda' to close vital oil-transit strait: Iran
by Staff Writers
Tehran (AFP) Dec 14, 2011

Iran on Wednesday deflated a rumour about it closing the Strait of Hormuz -- one of the world's most strategic transit points for oil -- by saying such a move was "not on the agenda."

But foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast reiterated Tehran's line hinting that the strait, a narrow stretch along Iran's Gulf shoreline, could be threatened if current rising tensions ever spilled over into war.

"The Islamic republic has repeatedly said that the issue of closing the Strait of Hormuz is not on the agenda, because Iran believes the region must have peace and stability to allow all regional countries to advance and develop," Mehmanparast was quoted as saying by the ISNA news agency.

However, he accused the United States and Israel of threatening Iran so as to create "a climate of war... and in such a climate there is the possibility of some reactions."

Oil prices spiked dramatically Tuesday -- ahead of an OPEC meeting in Vienna on Wednesday -- on an unfounded market rumour that Iran had closed or was looking at closing the Strait of Hormuz.

The rumour appeared to stem from a comment by an Iranian lawmaker who said Iran was "soon" to hold a military exercise on closing the strait.

"We will soon hold a drill to close down the Strait of Hormuz. Because if the world tries to make the region insecure, then we will make the world insecure," Parviz Sorouri, the head of the parliamentary national security committee, was quoted on Tuesday as saying by ISNA.

No Iranian official or media confirmed Sorouri's announcement, which seemed to add to defiant posturing commonly heard from hardline lawmakers.

Mehmanparast addressed that issue, saying: "Certain people who do not have any official political position, such as lawmakers or representatives of a group of people, may declare their personal opinions. However, Iran announces its official stances through official political authorities."

More than a third of the world's tanker oil passes through the Strait of Hormuz, making it a vital transit point. The United States maintains a navy presence in the Gulf to ensure it remains open.

Oil prices quickly returned to normal late Tuesday after the rumour was discounted.

New York's main contract, light sweet crude for January delivery, fell 31 cents to $99.83 a barrel and Brent North Sea crude for January delivery was off 34 cents at $109.16.

OPEC, which has Iran as its current rotating president, was expected Wednesday to maintain current official oil production quotas, with key members saying they were satisfied with current prices.

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Bombs target Iraq oil pipelines, exports unaffected
Baghdad (AFP) Dec 14, 2011 - Multiple bomb attacks set oil pipelines ablaze in southern Iraq, partially halting production but leaving exports unaffected, oil ministry spokesman Assem Jihad said on Wednesday.

"Around 9:00 pm (1800 GMT Tuesday), several bombs damaged pipelines transporting oil from the Rumaila-south oil field to the Zubair-1 storage facility," Jihad told AFP, referring to sites in south Iraq.

"This sabotage sparked a large fire which was brought under control at 7:00 am (0400 GMT) on Wednesday. Exports were not affected by these attacks. Repairs should take around one week."

Jihad said production at Rumaila-south of 1.4 million barrels per day (bpd) was reduced by 700,000 bpd.

A security official in Basra, Iraq's southernmost province where the attacks took place, said a total of three blasts targeted the pipelines.

Ali Ghanim al-Maliki, head of Basra provincial council's security committee, told AFP that the bombs had damaged pipelines in al-Berjasiyah, 50 kilometres (30 miles) south of Basra city.

Iraq is dependent on oil exports for virtually all of its government income. The country produces around 2.9 million bpd, of which some 2.1 million bpd is exported.

It aims to raise the former figure to around 12 million bpd by 2017.

The attacks come with just weeks to go before the US military completes a full withdrawal from Iraq, at which point security will be handled entirely by domestic forces.


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Japan lawmaker eyes base on China-claimed islands
Washington (AFP) Dec 12, 2011
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