07/08/2009, 00.00
IRAN – CHINA
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Iran’s presidential elections “the freest election around the globe”, says Ahmadinejad

In his first televised address, the Iranian president appears confident, celebrating the country’s auspicious future. But the opposition continues to resist. Tehran offers sweeteners to entice China into oil deals, but Beijing remains cautious given the political uncertainties still lingering in Iran.

Tehran (AsiaNews/Agencies) – In his first televised address to the nation after his election on 12 June, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad celebrated Iran’s “new era”. At the same time his government is seeking new billion dollar deals with China to develop Iran’s oil resources. Beijing remains cautious though.

Despite accusations of electoral fraud (which include in some polling stations more votes for the president-elect than registered voters) Ahmadinejad claims that the presidential election that saw his re-election “was the freest election around the globe” and that his “new government is entering a new era”.

The president did not address questions about the poll raised at home and abroad. He reiterated however accusations against the West, especially the United States and Great Britain, for casting doubts about the vote and for instigating street protests that broke out as a result of allegations of electoral fraud, the most important popular unrest in Iran since the Islamic Revolution in 1979.

Opposition leaders continue however to challenge his election. Former President Mohammad Khatami and defeated candidates Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Kharroubi met on Sunday. Again they said that as far as they are concerned Ahmadinejad’s election was “illegitimate”.

They called on the authorities to end the “state of emergency” imposed on the country to stop street protests and demonstrations.

They also urged their supporters to stay calm and remain within the law, but insisted on the immediate release of all those who were arrested.

So far the authorities have acknowledged the arrest of at least 1.000 people. But media reports have suggested that at least 20 people have died and thousands arrested.

Iran’s domestic troubles are also affecting its international status.

Iran has invited China to get involved in deals in several huge oil projects worth more than US$ 42.8 billion, including a 1,640-kilometre oil pipeline from Neka on the Caspian Sea in the north to Jask on the Gulf of Oman in the south.

Iranian Deputy Petroleum Minister and National Iranian Oil Company Chairman Shahnazi Zadeh announced that Chinese companies will invest in Iran’s refineries. In exchange Tehran is offering China’s sweeteners, such as a 5 per cent discount on the price of crude fed to the refineries, an eight-year tax exemption, and free and unlimited transfer by foreign investors of their profits from these projects.

Even though Iran sits on huge reserves of oil and natural gas, it has been denied access to Western technology and financing to develop them because of its conflict with the West.

Now Tehran is betting on the East, hoping to boost its gasoline production capacity to 190 million litres per day by 2012 from 44 million. Still Beijing is remaining cautious.

“The projects look impressive, but we need time to consider new policies and watch the trend of the political environment in the country before making any decision,” said yesterday Gao Yang, a project manager at the foreign co-operation office of Sinopec.

For some experts China is weary of Ahmadinejad’s leadership which does not appear as solid as the president would like the world to believe. 

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