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Sun 29 Nov 2009 02:33 PM

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Iran to raise gas imports 27% by March

Deputy oil minister says gasoline and diesel fuel imports to rise to 31 million litres.

Iran to raise gas imports 27% by March
IRAN PRESIDENT: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. (Getty Images)

Iran, which could face gasoline sanctions over its nuclear energy programme, will raise daily imports of gasoline and diesel fuel by 27 percent to 31 million litres by March, semi-official news agency Mehr said on Sunday.

"It is predicted that the daily imports of gasoline and gas oil (diesel fuel) will rise to 22 and 9 million litres per day respectively, by the end of this year," it quoted Deputy Oil Minister Noureddin Shahnazizadeh as saying.

The current Iranian year ends March 20.

"The average amount of gasoline and gas oil imported since the beginning of the current year were about 21 and 3.4 million litres per day respectively," said Shahnazizadeh, who is also managing director of National Iranian Oil Refining an d Distribution Company (NIORDC).

Iran is the world's fifth-largest oil exporter but lacks sufficient refining capacity to meet domestic gasoline needs, forcing it to import up to 40 percent of its needs.

This makes the Islamic republic vulnerable to any Western decision to target the gasoline trade as a way to put pressure on Tehran over its disputed nuclear programme.

The United States and its European allies fear Iran is trying to build nuclear bombs under cover of a civilian programme to generate electricty.

Iranian officials have repeatedly shrugged off the impact of sanctions, including three rounds imposed by the UN.

This month Iran raised domestic gasoline production by 14 million litres per day to a total of 58.5 million litres but for only a few days, in a move intended to show the West the government could cope with any sanctions. (Reuters)

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