Iran to cap petrol sales to curb smuggling

Low fuel prices have led to high consumption, with Iran’s 80 million population buying an average of 90 million liters per day. (AFP)
Updated 20 November 2018
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Iran to cap petrol sales to curb smuggling

  • Iran has some of the most heavily subsidized petrol in the world
  • Fuel cards were first introduced in 2007 with a view to reforming the expensive subsidies system

TEHRAN: Iran is reintroducing fuel cards that will cap petrol purchases in a bid to combat rampant smuggling, state media reported on Tuesday.
Smuggling has boomed in recent months as the rial has plummeted against the dollar in the face of the reimposition of crippling US sanctions following Washington’s withdrawal from a landmark 2015 nuclear deal between major powers and Tehran.
The Islamic republic has some of the most heavily subsidized petrol in the world, with a pump price of around $0.08 per liter (less than two US cents per gallon).
Low fuel prices have led to high consumption, with Iran’s 80 million population buying an average of 90 million liters (20 million gallons) per day, according to state news agency IRNA.
They have also fueled very high levels of smuggling — estimated at around 10 to 20 million liters (2.2 million — 4.5 million gallons) per day, IRNA said.
Much of it heads across the border to Pakistan, where petrol costs 10 times, and diesel around 40 times, as much as in Iran.
Fuel cards were first introduced in 2007 with a view to reforming the expensive subsidies system. High limits were set — 180 liters (40 gallons) per day for the average driver — since the focus was on curbing large-scale smuggling.
The state-run National Iranian Oil Products Distribution Company said drivers would have three weeks to register for the new electronic cards setting a daily limit on petrol purchases.
The limit has not yet been set, but was introduced “in order to prevent fuel smuggling,” the firm said in a statement on Monday.
It said the return to a card system “does not mean there will be fuel rationing and price hikes.”
But Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh has said a price increase may be necessary in the coming year — a move that remains highly sensitive in a country that boasts the world’s second-largest reserves of gas and fourth-largest of oil.


Palestine, Egypt offer air support as Israel battles wildfires

A firefighting aircraft flies over a forest near Kibbutz Harel, which was damaged by wildfires during a record heatwave, in Israel May 24, 2019. (REUTERS)
Updated 25 May 2019
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Palestine, Egypt offer air support as Israel battles wildfires

  • Thousands of people were evacuated from their homes on Thursday as fires raged
  • The fires were fueled by high temperatures and dry condition

JERUSALEM: Egypt and four European countries sent aircraft to help Israel battle wildfires that have forced the evacuation of some small towns, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Friday, as a record heatwave looked set to worsen conditions.
At an emergency briefing, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel had appealed for international help to combat the fires, and that firefighting planes were coming in from Greece, Croatia, Italy and Cyprus.
Egypt, on the orders of President Abdel-Fatah El-Sisi, had also sent two helicopters to assist Israel, Netanyahu told reporters.
The Palestinian Authority and Russia had also offered help, Netanyahu said.
Israel braced for wildfires on Friday amid a major heat wave that shows no signs of abating.
Israel “really appreciates” the help, Netanyahu said, singling out El-Sisi for sending aid.
“I am deeply thankful for the readiness of neighbors to help us in a time of crisis, just as we help them,” Netanyahu said.
Israel’s Fire and Rescue Service said blazes in a key corridor between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv were mostly under control but difficult weather remained a conflagration risk.
“As of this moment, this (containment) is being done in the best possible way, but the challenge is yet ahead of us given the weather conditions, the winds and the extreme heat,” Netanyahu said.
Some 3,500 residents of small towns in the path of the fires were evacuated on Thursday, officials said. Dozens of homes have burned down.

Evacuations
Thousands of people were evacuated from towns and dozens of homes were burned on Thursday as fires raged, fueled by high temperatures and dry conditions. Over 500 acres of woodland have burned, said Nitai Zecharya, an Israeli official from the Jewish National Fund, known for planting forests in the country.
Zecharya said that while firefighters had brought most of the blaze under control, officials remained “very stressed” about strong winds fanning flames and “spreading fires to other fronts.”
The cause of the fires remains unclear, but they erupted following the Jewish festival of Lag Ba’Omer, which observers mark with bonfires.
A sweltering heat wave is pushing temperatures in parts of the country up to 110 degrees Fahrenheit, or 43 Celsius.