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Jordan refuses Iran 'oil for religious tourism' deal
By JOANNA PARASZCZUK
11/23/2012
Jordanian spokesman says that though gov't seeking ways to solve energy crisis, it's eager to maintain ties with Gulf countries.
 
Official Jordanian sources expressed reservations about remarks by Iran’s ambassador in Amman that Tehran is prepared to provide the Hashemite Kingdom with free oil and energy products for 30 years, according to a report by CNN Arabic on Friday.

Tehran’s ambassador to Jordan, Dr. Mostafa Mosleh- Zadeh, said late on Wednesday that Tehran is ready to supply Jordan with oil and energy for the next 30 years, in return for goods the Islamic Republic needs, and for allowing Shi’ite religious tourism to Jordan.

Mosleh-Zadeh said Tehran is seeking to increase “diplomatic and commercial relations” with Jordan, in comments made on the Fi al-Samim program aired by Jordan’s Josat TV.

However, Jordanian government spokesman Samih Maaytah said Friday that though the government is looking for alternative ways to solve the energy crisis, the kingdom is “eager [to maintain] relations with the Gulf countries despite the delay in aid,” according to CNN Arabic.

The news program also cited anonymous Jordanian officials who said the Iranian offer was based on barter, especially regarding trade and Shi’ite religious tourism in the country.

Jordan is home to a number of sites important to Shi’ite Muslims, including the tomb of Ja’far ibn Abi Talib, the elder brother of the fourth Islamic Caliph, Ali ibn Abi Talib, who according to Shi’ite belief was the first imam.

The sources also confirmed the rejection of the Iranian offer, saying it was “a political deal... oil for religious tourism and certain political attitudes towards the Syria crisis serve the Iranian position,” CNN Arabic reported.

The Iranian ambassador’s comments came weeks after a decision by the Jordanian government to cut fuel subsidies sparked mass and sometimes violent popular protests, including calls to overthrow King Abdullah II.

Jordan’s economic situation has been exacerbated by the loss of financial support from oil-rich Gulf states, particularly Saudi Arabia, Iran’s regional rival.

Last year, Saudi Arabia gave Jordan a last-minute $1.4 billion cash handout, but withheld aid this year, officials have said.
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