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Iran takes over OPEC presidency

VIENNA (Agencies) - Iran assumed the rotating presidency of the 12-member Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) after being elected in the 157th session of the OPEC's ministerial meeting, which was held in Vienna on Thursday.

Iranian Oil Minister Masoud Mirkazemi will take over the presidency for the first time in 36 years on January 1, 2011. He will hold the post through next year.

The OPEC presidency is currently held by Ecuador.

Iran holds about 10 percent of world oil reserves and is the second-largest oil producer among OPEC nations, which provides 35 percent of global oil demand. Apart from Iran and Ecuador, the other members of OPEC are Algeria, Angola, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Venezuela.

The OPEC members also agreed to leave the organization's oil production target of about 24.84 million barrels a day unchanged.

---- OPEC members not fully benefiting from oil price

Iran's oil minister said OPEC members are not fully benefiting from the current oil price due to rising commodity prices, echoing statements by other members.

Speaking ahead of a meeting of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, Masoud Mirkazemi said, however, that he was satisfied with current prices as the world economy recovers from the recession.

---- Oil production unaffected by sanctions

Iran's hydrocarbons sector isn't suffering from international sanctions and it may even increase oil reserves again, the country's oil minister said Thursday.

Mirkazemi also said Iran was no longer importing gasoline and was even exporting it at the moment. The sector was put under U.S. sanctions this summer but Iran has reacted by increasing production capacity, including by temporarily converting petrochemicals plants into refineries.

Monday, Iran announced its proven oil reserves had risen by 9 percent to 150.31 billion barrels, partly driven by new discoveries, days after Iraq announced a similar upgrade.

But Mirkazemi said the newly-booked reserves didn't necessarily imply an increase in production.

-----Sanctions an 'opportunity' for local companies

A large-scale withdrawal from Iran by international companies as part of economic sanctions represents an ""opportunity"" for domestic companies, the Iranian oil minister said Thursday.

""Iran is not a poor country,"" Masoud Mirkazemi told reporters at a meeting of OPEC oil ministers in Vienna. ""The refraining of Western companies was an opportunity for our own banks and companies to find themselves.

Absorbing investment is not a problem,"" the minister said.

At the end of September, French giant Total, Anglo-Dutch group Shell, Norway's Statoil and Italy's Eni all said they were pulling out of Iran as part of wide-ranging international sanctions to pressure the Islamic republic to halt its controversial nuclear program.

Iran is OPEC's second-largest oil producer and holds around 10 percent of world oil reserves but it depends greatly on gasoline imports because of its limited refining capacity.

Nevertheless, last month Iran announced it had had achieved self-sufficiency in petrol production and even began exporting its first shipments of domestically made petrol.

""We are not buying (gasoline), we're even exporting,"" Mirkazemi said.

Mirkazemi said Tehran would also continue to develop gas as an alternative to gasoline for transportation fuel.

He also warned that the international community and Europe, in particular, could not do without Iran when it came to safeguarding energy security.

""Security of energy without Iran has no meaning,"" Mirkazemi said.


 

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