(AFP) – Jan 14, 2008
TEHRAN (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.
"Turkmenistan should first resume the halted gas supply, then we negotiate. Otherwise we will announce that we do not need Turkmenistan's gas," Oil Minister Gholam Hossein Nozari was quoted as saying in the press.
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.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has vowed of making ordinary people feel the benefits of the country's oil wealth as part of his campaign to restore economic justice to Iran.
"Unfortunately, after close to two and a half years of this government's administration these slogans have remained on paper and not been realised," said Mohammad-Mehdi Pour Fatemi, MP for the southern towns of Dashti and Tangestan.
"None of the (previous Iranian) governments have ever busied people with so many promises and yet overwhelmed them with so many problems as much as this government," he seethed.
In a sign of the gravity of the problem, Ahmadinejad last week made a sudden unannounced visit to the northern Mazandaran province to pledge that gas would be restored by Tuesday.
"In which university have the officials in the oil ministry studied that they have not still been able to make a reasonable and positive calculation of production, consumption, exports and storage?" Rayaat said.
The domestic shortages have underlined the problems of the gas industry in Iran, which with the second largest gas reserves in the world after Russia.
Iran has major hopes for exporting gas to countries like Armenia, Pakistan, Syria and even Europe but progress is being stymied by a lack of foreign investment in developing gas fields.
"Mr President, what is the political reward of the cheap gas exports to Pakistan?" asked Rayaat.
To cope with the domestic shortages, Iran has completely cut its daily exports of 20 million cubic metres (706 million cubic feet) of gas to Turkey, its only major current foreign buyer of Iranian gas.
Turkey was on Monday still not being supplied with Iranian gas, the semi-official Anatolia news agency reported, amid growing frustration in Ankara.
The Iranian government has been pinning the blame on the domestic shortages on Turkmenistan, which halted its gas exports to Iran on December 30 for "technical reasons."
Turkmenistan normally exports between 20 to 23 million cubic metres (700 million to 805 million cubic feet) of gas daily to Iran -- amounting to around five percent of the Islamic republic's total consumption.
Turkmenistan's foreign ministry is reported to have said that necessary repairs to the pipeline were delayed as Iran had not been paying the bills for the gas on time.
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