Iran General NewsIran, low on gasoline, to be supplied by Venezuela

Iran, low on gasoline, to be supplied by Venezuela

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New York Times: Venezuela agreed to sell Iran gasoline on Tuesday, less than a week after Iran unveiled a rationing program to limit its dependence on gasoline imports. The New York Times

By NAZILA FATHI
Published: July 4, 2007

TEHRAN, July 3 — Venezuela agreed to sell Iran gasoline on Tuesday, less than a week after Iran unveiled a rationing program to limit its dependence on gasoline imports.

“The Iranian government has asked to buy gasoline from us, and we have accepted the request,” Rafael Ramírez, Venezuela’s energy minister, told the newspaper Shargh. He declined to specify the quantity of gasoline Venezuela would sell to Iran or at what price.

Iran, a major oil exporter, imports 40 percent of its gasoline because of high consumption and limited refining capacity. While gasoline costs about $2 a gallon on world markets, the government sells it for 34 cents, a subsidy that costs it about $5 billion a year.

Iran imports gasoline from 16 countries, including India, the Netherlands, France and the United Arab Emirates.

Energy analysts say Tehran began rationing gasoline last week primarily in an effort to cut gasoline consumption in anticipation of possible sanctions over its nuclear program. The United States Congress is considering a bill that would impose sanctions on any company selling gasoline to Iran, and the United Nations Security Council will meet in September to discuss tougher sanctions against Tehran.

“It is not clear whether it would be economical for Iran to import gasoline from Venezuela because of the long distance,” said Saeed Leylaz, an economist and political analyst in Tehran. “But it can certainly be very important if other countries refuse to sell us gasoline because of international pressure,” he added.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Venezuela’s president, Hugo Chávez, who visited Tehran this week, are allied in their antipathy toward the United States. During Mr. Chávez’s visit, the countries signed a series of economic deals, including an agreement to build a dairy factory in Venezuela and a petrochemical plant on the Persian Gulf.

The rationing plan, meanwhile, spurred demonstrations in Iran, as angry drivers set fire to more than a dozen gas stations last week and chanted slogans denouncing Mr. Ahmadinejad.

The Iranian president defended the policy on Monday, calling it an “economic revolution.”

“Stop this childish game and try not to make this victory bitter for people,” he told his opponents in a speech in Tehran, Shargh reported. “The Americans have also admitted that if Iran can control its energy consumption, it will become invincible.”

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