Iran president takes over oil ministry temporarily

PTI: Tehran, May 16 (AFP) Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said he has temporarily assumed the duties of the oil ministry, as the oil cartel OPEC prepares for a biannual meeting in Vienna.

“For now, I myself am the caretaker of the oil ministry,” Ahmadinejad said in a televised speech yesterday, without elaborating.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

 On Saturday, Ahmadinejad dismissed oil minister Masoud Mirkazemi, alongside two other ministers, whose portfolios are expected to be merged with other departments as part of a cabinet streamlining.

Then yesterday, he appointed caretakers for the industry and social affairs ministries, but did not name anyone for the oil ministry which is to be integrated with the energy portfolio.

His decision to take charge of Iran’s most-strategic sector came shortly before the 159th OPEC meeting scheduled for June 8 in Vienna, where the oil producers are represented by their ministers.

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Wikileaks cable disclosure shows Arab fears of Iranian ambitions

Sunday night’s release of leaked United States diplomatic cables shows widespread concern in the Arab world over Iran’s ambitions to build a “Persian Empire in the 21st Century”.

Wikileaks, so far, have released under 300 of the quarter million plus diplomatic communications posted to them on a memory stick. The small sample shows, over several months, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Kuwait and Bahrain asserting that further sanctions against Iran will likely have no effect.

President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Early November last year, General David Petraeus discussed the situation with King Hamad of Bahrain, who argued for the use of force to thwart Iran’s nuclear ambitions; stating: “The danger of letting it go on is greater than the danger of stopping it.”

In that meeting concern was expressed that more Arab involvement in Iraq was needed to frustrate Iranian plans. Petraeus was told Bahrain sought Egyptians and Saudis support, but talks with the latter revealed no interest in taking a leading rôle.

The King did welcome the prospect of India becoming involved in the region as a stabilising influence.

A mid-December meeting between Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan of the UAE and US Deputy Secretary of Energy, Daniel Poneman, saw the subject brought up again. In a discussion that touched on the two countries renewable energy plans, and reliable movement of oil through the Strait of Hormuz, the Prince asserted Iran saw itself as spearheading a campaign for a “Persian Empire in the 21st Century.” Alleging Iran has established “emirates” in Kuwait, Bahrain, Eastern Saudi Arabia, Southern Iraq, Yemen, and South Lebanon, his picture of Iranian nuclear ambitions is “Al-Qaeda is not going to get a nuclear bomb; Iran is a matter of time.”

The Prince was keen to stress that those in power are the same people who, in 1979, seized the US embassy in Tehran.

Subsequent talks between a congressional appropriations sub-committee and UAE’s Foreign Minister were the scene of equally serious predictions. The sub-committee, consisting of Nita Lowey, Tom Cole, Barbara Lee, and Donna Edwards, heard from Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan that if Iran became a nuclear state the rest of the region would likely follow suit.

Plans to keep the fifteen-millions-plus barrels of oil passing through the Strait of Hormuz each day moving were discussed. Whilst keen to weaken Iranian ties with China, Sheikh Abdullah stressed the US$50 billion in trade between the two; this being considered an obstacle to China backing, and enforcing, a stronger sanctions regime.

The sub-committee’s Emirates host, like many in the region, stated progress on the Israeli peace process was a good route to de-escalation.

A meeting in Febuary this year with Kuwaiti Interior Minister Jaber Al-Khaled Al Sabah was the scene of comparable warnings. Alongside discussions on travel restrictions to be enforced against former Guantanamo Bay detainees, he described Iran as the “beating heart” of Islamic Extremism.

Concerns over Iran’s involvement in Yemen were discussed, with the minister saying Iran is intent on exporting its revolution; that its nuclear ambitions can only be thwarted by force.

Updating the US on perceived Iranian actions, he claimed they were attempting to infiltrate Egypt by recruiting the poor. And, they were becoming involved in the drugs trade, shipping narcotics into Yemen to fund millitants.

The cable on the Kuwait meeting closes referring recipients to a wiki page: http://www.intelink.sgov.gov/wiki/Portal:Kuwait. Wikinews believes this is probably a page on the US State Department’s Diplopedia; an internal project, based on the same technology as Wikipedia and intended for use building dossiers on countries, regions, their politicians, and diplomats.

A cable originating in London from January this year is corroborated by later U.S. news reports; hinting that the Iranian government may indeed be using tactics more reminiscent of the cold-war.

In the opening weeks of the year, London-based Voice of America commentator, Ali Reza Nourizadeh was advised that Mohammed Reza Sadeqinia intended to target him for assassination, along with others. Sadeqinia was previously arrested in California, and prosecuted for attempting to hire a hit man. The target at that time was reported to be Iranian-American broadcaster Jamshid Sharmahd, one of the main figures behind Tondar — a loose collection of in-exile Iranians opposed to the current regime.

Tehran insists Tondar is a terrorist organisation, accusing it of being responsible for a 2008 bombing that killed 14.

Sadeqinia, who worked as a painter in Ann Arbour, was arrested on July 28, 2009 near Los Angeles International Airport in posession of thousands of dollars and an Iranian passport. FBI investigations into his possible Iranian government ties were still ongoing a month before his scheduled release in July this year.

Found guilty by Los Angeles Superior Court of attempting to hire someone to murder Sharmahd, he had been expected to spend around a year in jail. Tondar spokesman Iman Afar, in the lead up to Sedeqina’s release, expressed concern for his own safety and that of others in the L.A. area.

Ahmadinejad criticizes Paul the octopus

Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claims Paul the octopus, who correctly guessed the outcomes of eight matches of the World Cup, is a sign of decay of Western culture.

Ahmadinejad said in a speech at a youth festival in Tehran, “Those who believe in this type of thing cannot be the leaders of the global nations that aspire, like Iran, to human perfection, basing themselves in the love of all sacred values.”

Paul the Octopus picks Germany over Uruguay in 3rd place World Cup match 2010-07-09

“We are after constructing Iran, but this does not mean viewing the matter from nationalist angle and singling out the Iranian race. Today the name of Iran is synonymous with prestige, justice seeking, monotheism, anti-despotism, and the entire blessed values that are dear for the world nations,” he continued.

Ahmadinejad accuses the octopus of spreading "western propaganda and superstition." Image: Jeff Swicord / José Cruz.

An Irish journalist, Rory Fitzgerald, wrote a satirical piece in response to the president’s remarks. “A visibly shaken Paul spoke out earlier today saying: ‘As an octopus, I can claim some objectivity in my view [of] human affairs,’ ” Fitzgerald wrote.

Paul correctly predicted the outcome of Germany’s seven matches and picked Spain over the Netherlands for the World Cup final. The mollusk currently lives in a tank at the Oberhausen Sea Life Centre in Germany.

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