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Mon 11 Feb 2008 01:59 AM

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Iran increases petrol ration for New Year

Private motorists to be granted an extra 100 litres for travel ntensive March holidays, media reports.

Iranian motorists will receive an extra 100 litres of gasoline for the country’s New Year holidays, which start on March 19, nine months after the introduction of fuel rationing, media reported on Sunday.

The world's fourth-largest oil producer lacks refining capacity and must therefore import large amounts of fuel, which it then sells at heavily subsidised prices.

Rationing was introduced by the country last June to curb soaring consumption. The move initially triggered angry protests, with demonstrators torching petrol stations and yelling slogans against the government.

Under the scheme, average daily consumption dropped by 22% to 59 million litres compared with a year earlier, the state oil refining and distribution firm said in December.

The monthly quota for private motorists was raised by 20% to 120 litres in December, and Iranian media said on Sunday the government would allocate an extra one-off amount of 100 litres for the New Year, when many Iranians travel.

"For the welfare of the citizens ... 100 litres of gasoline for the New Year holidays will be added to the quotas of private motorists," the government was quoted as saying in a statement.

All gasoline in Iran, whether produced locally or imported, is sold at the heavily subsidised price of 1,000 rials (about 11 US cents) a litre – less than a comparable amount of mineral water. This has burdened state coffers.

Importing gasoline is also a sensitive issue when Iran is facing Western pressure over its disputed nuclear programme.

A senior Iranian oil official said this month the country's daily gasoline imports had fallen by 57% since June. (Reuters)

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