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Sat 10 Apr 2010 04:41 PM

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Iran to privatise all refineries, petchem units - Mehr

World's fifth-largest crude exporter seeking to speed up sale of state assets.

Iran plans to privatise all its refineries and petrochemical units, Oil Minister Massoud Mirkazemi was quoted as saying on Saturday.

Iran, the world's fifth-largest crude exporter, is seeking to speed up the sale of state assets in a bid to encourage private investment and boost the economy, which is under U.S. and U.N. sanctions over Tehran's disputed nuclear programme.

"The work on ceding (ownership of) oil companies has begun and based on plans, all petrochemical units and refineries will be ceded, including service, drilling and support companies," the semi-official Mehr News Agency quoted Mirkazemi as saying.

He did not give details on when it would happen.

On Friday, state Press TV said Iran had transferred shares in six petrochemical plants and power stations to a social welfare investment organisation of the Islamic Republic's armed forces, instead of debt payment.

Earlier in April, a senior privatisation official said Iran aimed to raise about $12.5 billion by privatising more than 500 state firms during the 2010-11 year, including two refineries and two car makers.

Western firms are increasingly wary of investing in Iran due to the long-running nuclear row, and analysts say some of the companies that are put up for sale may simply end up being transferred within the country's vast public sector.

Last year, a consortium linked to the elite Revolutionary Guards took a controlling stake of 50 percent plus one share in the Telecommunications Company of Iran in a deal valued at around $7.8 billion.

The United States and its allies suspect Iran is seeking to develop nuclear bombs. Tehran denies the charge and says its nuclear work is aimed at generating electricity so that it can export more of its oil and gas. (Reuters)