Lethal blast at Iran refinery as Ahmadinejad visits

Two dead, at least 12 injured at Abadan refinery; president unhurt, makes scheduled televised address; blast blamed on technical problems.

May 24, 2011 11:33
1 minute read.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad 311. (photo credit: MCT)

TEHRAN - An explosion at an oil refinery in Iran during a visit by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Tuesday killed two people and injured 12, the Mehr news agency said.

Ahmadinejad was not hurt and appeared on state television shortly after the blast giving a speech marking the inauguration of a new part of the refinery.

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Iranian lawmaker Hamid-Reza Katouzian said the explosion was not sabotage and technical problems at the plant were well known.

"This incident was not an act of intentional sabotage," said the lawmaker who is head of Iran's parliamentary energy committee.

"Experts had forewarned that Abadan refinery was not ready to be inaugurated," he told reporters. "The incident in Abadan refinery was due to technical problems.

Thick smoke was seen rising from the refinery in Abadan, south-western Iran, close to the Iraqi border, but firefighters had the blaze under control, Iranian news agencies said.

Any damage to the plant would have no impact on oil exports from the world's fifth-biggest exporter as it is involved in producing gasoline, mostly for domestic consumption, not the production of crude.

Industrial accidents are far from rare in Iran's oil industry and state broadcaster IRIB said on its website that similar incidents had occurred in the weeks running up to the new plant's inauguration.

But Iran's vital oil and gas infrastructure are often targets for sabotage and several rebel groups pursue bombing campaigns in various parts of the country.

Ahmadinejad, who is embroiled in a power struggle with other factions in Iran's conservative ruling elite, made no mention of the incident in his speech which concentrated on criticizing the United States' role in the Middle East.

His presence at the inauguration shows the importance Tehran places on increasing its oil refining capacity at a time when international sanctions have squeezed its ability to import the automotive fuel.

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