Reuters: Iran's oil minister Gholamhossein Nozari was likely to keep his job in any new cabinet formed by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iranian industry sources said on Tuesday.
By Simon Webb
DUBAI, June 23 (Reuters) – Iran's oil minister Gholamhossein Nozari was likely to keep his job in any new cabinet formed by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iranian industry sources said on Tuesday.
The world's fifth-largest oil exporter has seen the worst unrest in 30 years after a disputed presidential election earlier this month. Deputy oil minister Akbar Torkan was replaced on Monday. Sources said he was sacked for political reasons.
Nozari is not politically affiliated to Torkan and there were no signs the minister would follow the deputy, sources said.
"I don't think the president would want to replace Nozari," one said, speaking on condition of anonymity. "The president had lots of problems initially getting parliament to accept his choice for oil minister. I don't think he'll want any problems like that now."
Ahmadinejad appointed Nozari, a technocrat, to the job in 2007, in what was seen at the time as a presidential move to exert more control over the strategic ministry.
After coming to power in 2005, Ahmadinejad struggled to fill the oil portfolio. Parliament rejected his first three candidates for the oil ministry before accepting fourth-choice Kazem Vaziri-Hamaneh. He later sacked Vaziri-Hamaneh in favour of Nozari.
While Ahmadinejad has sought to increase control over the oil ministry, final say on all major policy matters in Iran lies with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Ahmadinejad has until August 18 to form a new cabinet. Each minister must be approved by parliament.
Torkan declined to comment on the reasons for his resignation.
"I have resigned from my position at the oil ministry and prefer not to talk about it," he said on Tuesday.
A spokesman at the oil ministry said Torkan had been replaced but declined to say why.
One source said Torkan was sacked because he was close to defeated presidential candidate Mirhossein Mousavi. Another said Nozari himself may be consolidating control over the ministry ahead of the new cabinet nomination.
Torkan, a former defence minister, had held the post of deputy oil minister for planning after heading the state-owned oil companies Petropars and gas firm Pars.
Iran is the second-largest oil producer in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). It pumps around 3.8 million barrels per day (bpd) of oil, around 4.5 percent of global supply.
Oil supply, exports and refining operations have been unaffected by 10 days of protests in Iran.
Nozari's efforts to increase crude production capacity and to become a major gas exporter have been hampered by sanctions over Iran's nuclear programme, which limit its access to funds and technology.
(Additional reporting by Parisa Hafezi in Tehran; editing by William Hardy)