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Iran's Parliament Ratifies Rostam Qassemi As New Oil Minister

8/3/2011 11:26 AM ET

Iran's parliament has overwhelmingly approved the appointment of Rostam Qassemi as the country's new oil minister.

In a voting in the conservative-dominated parliament on Wednesday, 216 out of 246 deputies present voted in favor of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's nominee.

Qassemi is a Brigadier General in Iran Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), the country's main military force. He commands the sanctions-hit industrial wing of the elite Guards, Khatam al-Anbiya, which is also involved in oil projects.

Qasemi said his main priority is to enhance the status of Iran's oil industry in the world and within OPEC, by making it the world's number two nation in gas and becoming the region's number one in refining.

The second largest oil producer among OPEC nations, Iran currently holds the rotating presidency of the cartel.

Iran has ambitious plans on energy cooperation and joint development of shared fields with neighboring Iraq.

But Qassemi is on a US and EU list of people declared persona non-grata due to their alleged involvement in Iran's controversial nuclear program.

Oil revenues constitute around 80 percent of Teheran's foreign exchange resources, but international punitive measures are tough enough to cripple Iran's energy and banking sectors.

The Oil Ministry has in recent months been the subject of a political spat between President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his critics in parliament.

Parliament rejected Ahmadinejad's plan to take charge of the Oil Ministry and later merge it with the Energy Ministry after he dismissed Oil Minister Massoud Mirkazemi in May.

by RTT Staff Writer

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