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Middle East - Jan 16

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Angry Iran warns Turkmenistan on gas

AFP
Iran angrily warned Turkmenistan to restore gas exports, amid criticism from MPs that the Iranian government was not doing enough to help people cut off from gas supplies in a severe winter, the press reported on Monday.

Gas imports from Turkmenistan have been shut off for the past two weeks, compounding the effects of a consumption crunch in Iran that has caused major gas cuts in the north of the country during record low temperatures.

...Several MPs were quoted on Monday as expressing exasperation with the government's handling of the crisis, which has seen dozens of factories shut and left people in both cities and remote villages with poor or no heating.

"Mr President, do you know how my constituency's people have lived without the least heating equipment and in the worst and most difficult conditions?" asked Vali Rayaat, MP from the northern city of Ghaemshahr.

"We don't want oil money. Supply gas!," the Etemad Melli newspaper quoted him as saying.
(14 January 2008)


Iran Oil Ministry ready to weather frost

PIN, Tehran Times
Iran’s Interior Minister Mostafa Purmohammadi said that Oil Ministry was prepared to meet domestic household gas need during the new period of freezing weather.

The minister, who made the statement in his talks with reporters on the sidelines of a Natural Disaster Headquarters session, referred to the sharp drop in temperature and increase in fuel consumption across the country, saying domestic gas consumption on Wednesday showed a 115 million cubic meter growth from its corresponding day in the previous year.

He added some 460 million cubic meters of gas was produced and used in the country Thursday, revealing the great, praiseworthy efforts of Oil Minister and National Iranian Gas Company (NIGC) officials.

Purmohammadi said over two percent of consumers now faced gas cut, adding some about 1.4 million end-users were suffering from constant disruption and cut at intervals.

The interior minister added 20 million cubic meters more would be required to cope with the supply cut.

He called on people to save energy in an attempt to pass through severe climatic conditions.

...Cold weather has already created problems in Iran with around a dozen towns suffering gas cuts last week because of a surge in demand, a shortage compounded by a cut in exports from Turkmenistan.

Turkmenistan has halted daily deliveries of up to 23 million cubic meters to Iran since Dec. 31 because of ""technical problems"" and the need to undertake emergency repairs.

The incident has a feeling of deja vu. A year ago, Turkmen supplies were halted before an Iranian-Turkmen agreement was signed, stipulating that the price of Turkmen gas exports to Iran would increase and in exchange the volume of gas exported to Iran would double.
(12 January 2008)
Contributor Jeffrey J. Brown writes:
This article about natural gas export to and out of Turkey is instructive. It is a prime example of the Export Land Model--where domestic consumption is met before energy is exported.


Iraq: Fuel Crisis Freezes Life

Ahmed Ali and Dahr Jamail, Inter Press Service
BAQUBA - It’s turning out to be about the hardest winter Abu Muslih has known. Too often it’s a choice between buying food and medicines, and buying kerosene to keep his children warm.

“I see them feeling cold, so I go out to buy kerosene at any price,” Muslih, a 49-year-old city employee told IPS. “My salary cannot pay for kerosene. So I use my savings, or try to avoid other necessities.”

This is a problem in home after home in this city of about 300,000 located 40 km north of Baghdad, in the violence and unemployment ridden Diyala province.

“When we can, we burn wood to keep our houses warm,” says city resident Abu Nasem. It is hardly the best choice. “Since there are no fireplaces in our houses, wood fire can be harmful and dangerous.”

And there is fuel needed to cook with. “Iraqis mainly use gas cookers, and the price of a container may reach 35 dollars,” resident Jafar Nadem told IPS. “This kind of price is very high in relation to the income of any family. Large families may use three or four containers a month.” Prices are high, and supply low. Kerosene shortages last all winter now; shortage of other fuel, all year. The occupation and the conditions it has created have much to do with the shortages.

“Many of the refineries have come under the control of the Mehdi militia (of Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr),” Mohammed al-Neemy, an employee at a petrol station in Baquba told IPS. Normally, he said, each petrol station needs a couple of 36,000-litre tankers daily. But these days all of the city gets on average a tanker a day - and not all of that gets to the petrol stations.

“Petrol station owners sell it in the black market before it reaches the city,” an employee in an oil company who spoke on condition of anonymity told IPS. “These owners have become millionaires in the years of occupation.”
(10 January 2008)
Also posted at Common Dreams.


Saudi Arabia scraps wheat growing to save water

Souhail Karam, Reuters
Saudi Arabia is abandoning a 30-year programme to grow wheat that achieved self-sufficiency but depleted the desert kingdom's scarce water supplies.

The government will start reducing purchases of wheat from local farmers by 12.5 percent per year from this year, officials from the agriculture and finance ministries said on Tuesday.

The kingdom aims to rely entirely on imports by 2016.
(8 January 2008)

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