Ahmadinejad won't attend OPEC meeting in June

Eric Watkins
OGJ Oil Diplomacy Editor

LOS ANGELES, May 24 -- Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will not attend the next meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, and will send a subordinate instead.

“Ahmadinejad announced that he will not take part at the OPEC meeting in June based on his own decision and will appoint one of his cabinet ministers to attend the meeting," said senior oil ministry official Shojaoddin Bazargani.

Ahmadinejad earlier said he would temporarily oversee the country’s oil portfolio following his dismissal of Oil Minister Masoud Mir-Kazemi (OGJ Online, May 16, 2011).

As a result of that decision, Ahmadinejad was poised to represent Iran at OPEC’s June 8 meeting, a point underlined by Iranian officials.

"Considering that the president is the oil ministry's caretaker, Ahmadinejad will attend the upcoming OPEC meeting," Mohammad Reza Mirtajeddini, a senior government official, told the semi-official Fars news agency on May 18.

However, Ahmadinejad’s attendance at the upcoming meeting was last week thrown into doubt when Iran’s Guardian Council, a powerful body of clerics and jurists, ruled that he cannot serve as the country’s caretaker oil minister (OGJ Online, May 20, 2011).

Despite his decision not to attend the OPEC meeting, Ahmadinejad will retain his position as the country’s temporary oil minister, according to a senior government official.

"On this issue the government has already announced its decision and it has been settled and the president is the caretaker of the ministry," said Fatemeh Bodaghi, Iran’s vice-president for legal affairs.

The Tehran-based Shargh newspaper said Bodaghi made her comments on the sidelines of a cabinet meeting on May 22 after she was specifically asked about the Guardian Council’s May 20 ruling on Ahmadinejad’s assumption of the oil ministry post.

Ahmadinejad’s decision not to attend the meeting will likely be welcomed by the group’s ministers as well as outside observers.

Analysts had warned that the Iranian president might use the occasion as a platform for anti-US sentiments, given the sanctions now imposed by the international community—led by Washington—over Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Contact Eric Watkins at hippalus@yahoo.com.

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