Iran General NewsIran's Rafsanjani blames foreign cos over gas shortages

Iran’s Rafsanjani blames foreign cos over gas shortages

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Dow Jones: Senior Iranian politician Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani Friday blamed foreign companies and suppliers for shortages in natural gas used for heating that have hit the country during an unusually cold winter.
Dow Jones Newswires

TEHRAN (AP)–Senior Iranian politician Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani Friday blamed foreign companies and suppliers for shortages in natural gas used for heating that have hit the country during an unusually cold winter.

Rafsanjani, a rival of hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, also implicitly criticized the government, saying there should be sufficient reserves of heating fuel to prevent “such shocks and not allow our enemies to exploit it.”

Iranian media have reported several dozen deaths over the past two weeks in remote rural areas because of the cold snap. Heating gas supplies have been short or cut off in at least 84 towns, according to media.

Rafsanjani, a former president who now heads a powerful clerical leadership body, told Muslim worshippers during Friday prayer services in Tehran that foreign companies were the cause of the shortages.

“They did not fulfill their tasks in gas production projects in south of the country and the projects were delayed,” Rafsanjani said.

Royal Dutch Shell PLC (RDSB) and France’s Total SA (TOT) have contracts to develop gas fields in southern Iran. But Iranian officials have criticized the companies the past year, suggesting they were slowing their work after the U.N. imposed limited sanctions on Iran for refusing to halt uranium enrichment.

Rafsanjani also blamed neighboring Turkmenistan, which earlier this month halted gas exports to Iran. Turkmenistan said the halt was in part because of late Iranian payments, as well as slow repairs on a pipeline on its side of the border.

“Really, Turkmenistan moved unpleasantly,” Rafsanjani said. “If they have some claims over payment, they should have waited until the end of winter. They should not have disturbed people of a neighboring, friend Muslim country.”

Turkmenistan didn’t mention a specific amount for the alleged Iranian debt or say when supplies would resume to Iran, dealt under a 25-year agreement.

Iran has the second largest natural gas reservoir of the world but its supply network cannot handle heavy consumption. The country produces more than 450 million cubic meters of gas a day, all consumed domestically.

Many local critics accuse government of mismanagement in production and supplying gas, saying the country’s production capacity could have reached double of the current one some two years ago.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

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