South Africa looks to Nigeria, Angola to replace Iran oil

South Africa is looking to source oil from Angola, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia to replace supplies from Iran, which is facing sanctions over its nuclear programme, a top energy official said on Friday.

Oil workers walk through pipe installations on a tanker at Bonga off-shore oil field outside Lagos, October 30, 2007. Photo: REUTERS

Africa’s biggest economy used to import a quarter of its crude from Iran, but has come under Western pressure to cut the shipments as part of sanctions designed to halt Tehran’s suspected pursuit of nuclear weapons.

“We intend looking at other countries, specifically in Africa, mainly Angola and Nigeria,” Nelisiwe Magubane, director general at the energy department told journalists. “We also, of course, are going to continue to import from Saudi Arabia.”

South Africa’s crude oil imports from Iran fell 43 percent to 286,072 tonnes in April from the previous month, while supplies from Saudi Arabia nearly doubled to 671,419 tonnes. The remaining 258,184 tonnes came from Nigeria.

The United States granted South Africa an exemption from financial sanctions after the cuts in Iranian imports, Pretoria may still face problems because of sanctions from the European Union, which does not provide any waivers.

Magubane said she expected a “breakthrough” soon in talks with Brussels on the issue.

“The sanctions are not just going to impact the South African economy, but it is also going to impact that of our neighbours,” she said.

Any disruption to crude imports could hit fuel supplies in South Africa, which has suffered shortages in the last year because of strikes and refinery problems.

Refiners in South Africa include Shell, BP, Total, Chevron, petrochemicals group Sasol, and Engen, which is majority-owned by Malaysian state oil group Petronas .

REUTERS

Bomb kills 8, wounds 20 in Pakistan

A bomb attack killed at least eight people and wounded more than 20 others outside a Pakistani madrassa in the troubled southwestern city of Quetta on Thursday, police said.

The bomb which was detonated outside the gates of the Sunni Muslim seminary as a degree ceremony for students was being held inside, appears to be the deadliest attack in the city since a car bomb killed 15 people last December.

Doctor Mohammad Haider at the state-run Civil Hospital said three boys and five men were killed, adding that the children were aged 7, 9 and 14.

Police official Hamid Shakeel confirmed the death toll and said that more than 20 people were wounded. “It was a remote-controlled bomb,”

Quetta is the capital of Baluchistan province, which borders Iran and Afghanistan.

It is one of the most deprived regions of Pakistan despite its wealth in resources, and human rights activists have heavily condemned the military for summary arrests and executions in its bid to put down the separatist insurgency.

NDLEA sniffer dogs detect heroin from Iran at Lagos airport

The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) on Wednesday said that its sniffer dogs have helped in the confiscation of 16 Kilogrammes of highly grade heroin at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport (MMIA) Lagos.

The agency through its head of public affairs, Ofoyeju Mitchell said this is the first major seizure of narcotics this year.

Mr Mitchell said that the anti-narcotic agents had placed the consignment on surveillance following the alert signal of the sniffer dogs. The operation led to the ultimate abandonment of the 16 kilogrammes of heroin by a suspected drug syndicate at the National Aviation Handling Company (NAHCO) Shed of the airport.

According to him, the brownish substance that tested positive  was packed in white transparent polythene and hidden inside metal pipes and that the drug which was industrially packed was brought as cargo on a KLM flight from the Republic of Iran.

“The estimated street value of the drug in Lagos, Nigeria is about 160 million naira and could be four times higher in international market,” Mr Mitchell said in a press statement.

He said that the agency conducted “100 per cent search because of the alert given by the sniffer dogs. A welder was invited to forcefully cut the pipe open. The effort paid off when the heroin was found.

“The cargo with Air Waybill number 0747419547 was addressed to one Mr. Nnaemeka Chinedu Joseph of 64, Ladipo Industrial Parts, Mushin Lagos,” he said.

The airport commander, Hamza Umar said that the consignment arrived from Iran but was left unclaimed.

“The consignment was at the NAHCO shed upon arrival from Iran. Based on suspicion we placed it under observation. However, when nobody came forward to take delivery of the consignment, we first brought in the sniffer dogs to examine it.

“The dogs alerted that the thick metal pipes are positive for narcotics. This was what emboldened us to conduct extensive examination openly witnessed by customs, police and other security officials. They were all amazed at the clever way the drug was concealed” the commander said.

The Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of the NDLEA, Ahmadu Giade said that the seizure is an indication that drug trafficking syndicates are losing the drug war.

“This is another important seizure to the agency and the country,” he said.

“It points to the fact that our control measures at the exit and entry points are getting better by the day. No doubt, it is a huge loss for the drug cartel behind the illegal shipment. This is a very successful operation and we have launched full scale investigation into the illegal import. We hope to unveil the culprits soonest” Mr Giade added.

The NDLEA boss added that the role of the sniffer dogs in the seizure underscore the importance of logistic support in the drug war.

Iran religious, political hardliners face off in vote

Iranians voted on Friday in a parliamentary election which is expected to reinforce the power of the clerical establishment of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei over hard-line political rivals led by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The election is unlikely to have much impact on Iran’s foreign policies – the country’s disputed nuclear program and international relations are already strictly controlled by Khamenei.

But it could allow the clergy to strengthen its hand in determining the political backdrop ahead of a presidential election due in 2013.

With Iran facing growing international isolation, western sanctions over its nuclear program and a threat of attack by Israel, Iranian leaders have been calling for a high turnout to bolster their legitimacy.

“There is a lot of negative propaganda against our nation … The arrogant powers are bullying us to maintain their prestige. A high turnout will be better for our nation … and for preserving security,” said Khamenei after casting his vote.

“Whenever there has been more enmity towards Iran, the importance of the elections has been greater.”

The election will be the first since the country’s disputed presidential election in 2009, when opposition and pro-democracy protests were quelled by security forces.

This time round, leading reformist groups have said they will stay away from voting, setting the stage for a straight contest between backers of Khamenei and Ahmadinejad.

A low turnout, however, could nonetheless highlight the extent to which disappointment still exists among Iranian voters over the outcome of the 2009 presidential election.

State radio reported polling stations opened to voters at 8 a.m. (0430 GMT). They are due to close at 6 p.m. (1430 GMT), although this time has been extended in past votes.

While voting stations in affluent northern Tehran were quiet, people queued in central and downtown parts of the city to cast their votes.

“I am here to support my establishment against the enemies’ plot by voting,” said Mahboubeh Esmaili, 28, holding her baby outside the Hoseiniyeh Ershad polling center in central Tehran, where around 50 people were queuing up to vote.

ECONOMY AN ISSUE
The two main groups that are competing for the 290-seat parliament are the United Front of Principlists, which includes Khamenei loyalists, and the Resistance Front that backs Ahmadinejad.

Ahmadinejad, the son of a blacksmith, still enjoys the support of many in Iran’s poorer communities, largely thanks to his humble image and regular cash handouts. But his popularity has been dented by the country’s economic crisis.

Western sanctions aimed at forcing Iran to halt sensitive nuclear work have started to hurt energy and food imports. The West fears Iran is working on developing a nuclear bomb, but Tehran says the program is for electricity generation and other peaceful purposes.

The price of staple goods has spiraled because of the falling value of the Iranian currency and fresh European Union and U.S.
sanctions on Iran’s financial and oil sectors.

Critics have accused Ahmadinejad of making things worse for ordinary Iranians, saying his decision to replace food and fuel subsidies with direct monthly payments since 2010 has fuelled inflation, officially running at around 21 percent.

Khamenei will be looking to use the vote to reestablish his hold on power following a political rift between the two leaders when Ahmadinejad tried to supersede Khamenei in Iran’s complex political hierarchy.

While Ahmadinejad himself cannot stand for a third term under Iran’s constitution, some Iranian media reports said he backed Esfandiar Rahim-Mashaie, his chief 0f staff, as a candidate to succeed him in the 2013 presidential vote.

The Guardian Council, made up of six clerics and six jurists who vet candidates, has approved 3,467 individuals out of more than 5,382 who initially applied to run in the poll.

Some politicians said that the hard-line council barred many established Ahmadinejad supporters, forcing him to pick younger political unknowns.

Khamenei, who initially endorsed Ahmadinejad’s 2009 re-election, publicly distanced himself from the president in April by reinstating the sacked intelligence minister.

In the past months, dozens of Ahmadinejad allies have been detained or dismissed from their posts for being linked to a “deviant current” that his rivals say aims to sideline clerics. Ahmadinejad’s media adviser has been sentenced to one year in jail for insulting Khamenei.

Reformists did not send in a list of candidates, saying the basic needs of a “free and fair” vote had not been fulfilled.

Major pro-reform political parties have been banned and leading reformists have either been jailed or banned from political activities since the 2009 election, which the opposition says was rigged.

Opposition leaders Mirhossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi, defeated in the 2009 vote, have been under house arrest for more than a year.

Reuters

Putin Warns U.S. on Russia’s Nuclear Weapon

The fight against nuclear weapons programme chaired by the United States of America is generating so much bad blood in the international community.

As President Vladimir Putin in his recent statement backed Iran’s move on their nuclear programme which has been one of the world’s major issue that the west led by the United States has planned to run aground the programme and seek a regime change in Iran.

He also warned the United States to steer clear Russia’s nuclear weapons programme as it intends to keep its programme running and the reason being that it would keep the U.S. power under check. Putin said they are suspicious of the move of the U.S. as they preach against weapons of mass destruction but their agenda is different.

Russia has longstanding commercial and military ties with Iran and has condemned unilateral sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union over its suspected pursuit of nuclear weapons.

Putin’s tough talk came as he toured a nuclear research centre in the once-secret city of Sarov ahead of a March 4 presidential election in which he is widely expected to secure a return to the Kremlin.

Putin often clashed with the United States while president between 2000 and 2008 and has remained a key decision-maker in the past four years who spearheaded Russia’s criticism of the NATO-led air campaign in Libya. Russia now faces both Western and Arab world condemnation for its refusal to blame Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for an 11-month crackdown on street protests that the opposition says has claimed more than 7,600 lives.

Iran behind India,Georgia Embassy Bombings- Netanyahu

Benjamin Natanyahu the Prime Minister of Israel has pointed accusing fingers at Iran in connivance with its Lebanese ally Hezbollah for the bombings of Israeli embassies in India and Georgia,the bombings were targeted at staffs but fortunately no one was killed but four people were wounded in the blasts which took place on Monday.

Iran behind India,Georgia Embassy Bombings- Netanyahu

In the New Delhi bomb blast which wrecked a diplomatic vehicle had the wife of Israel’s defence attache and her driver wounded.

The Tbilisi bomb was defused safely by Georgian police.

Israel had put its foreign missions on especially high alert ahead of the Feb. 12 anniversary of the assassination, in 2008, of the military mastermind of Lebanon’s Hezbollah guerrillas, Imad Moughniyeh.

Iranian-backed Hezbollah had vowed to avenge Moughniyeh’s death in a Damascus car-bombing, blaming it on the Jewish state.

Israel is also believed to be locked in a wider covert war with Iran, whose nuclear programme has been beset by sabotage, including the unclaimed killings of several scientists.

Iran, which stands behind these attacks, is the largest exporter of terror in the world. The Israeli government and security forces will continue to act together with local security services against these acts of terror.

We will continue to act systematically, with determination and forcefully against international terror emanating from Iran,” said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

There was no immediate comment from Tehran or Beirut.

The New Delhi blast took place some 500 metres from the official residence of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Georgian police prevented a similar incident, defusing a bomb found in a car of an Israeli embassy staff member. Thailand said last month it had arrested a Lebanese man who had links with Hezbollah and a confiscated cache of explosives.

Israel responded by urging its citizens to exercise caution while visiting Thailand.

Iran’s Ahmadinejad Pallies President Raul Castro

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad met with Cuban President Raul Castro to make it his third stop on a tour of Latin America countries namely Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba and Ecuador after the western economic sanction which heightened International tensions.

Iran

This was after the confirmation of a bomb attack which killed an Iranian nuclear scientist in Tehran and his government reacted to the incident by accusing Israel and the United States but didnt make mention of it while with the Cuban President.

Venezuela,Nicaragua,Cuba and Ecuador are solidly behind Iran due to their antipathy toward the United States as it was the United States that spearheaded the sanctions against Iran.this common ground between these countries boosted political and economic ties between the Latin America and Islamic Region in recent years.

They also have endorsed Iran’s right to develop nuclear energy.

Iran has granted several hundred million dollars in credits to Cuba, which the island has used primarily to get new Iranian-made train cars for its deteriorating rail system.

Trade between the two countries totaled $27 million in 2009, down from $46 million the previous year, according to the latest Cuban government figures available.

It was not yet known if Ahmadinejad would visit former Cuban leader Fidel Castro, who is now mostly retired at age 85 but still meets occasionally with visiting foreign leaders.
Ahmadinejad is to visit Ecuador which will be the final stop of his Latin America tour.

Iran to Face ‘Stricter Sanctions’:France

France has recommended that Iran be made to face ‘Stricter Measure’ after information reached it that the Arab country is developing nuclear weapons.

Iran Missile Test

The Foreign Minister; Alain Juppe said the EU countries should back the U.S. in the proposed freezing of the assets of Iran and further impose embargo on it’s oil exports.

Iran dismissed sanction threat and it further said it is not the punitive measure from the U.S. that had crashed its currency.

Iran claimed that it is not developing any nuclear weapon

A joint sanction was placed on Iran in November by U.S.,Canada and the U.K.in the wake of the report from the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), that said Iran had carried out tests related to “development of a nuclear device”.

Iran has also been holding a series of naval exercises in the Gulf, and on Monday said it had successfully test-fired a shore-to-sea Qader cruise missile, a shorter range Nasr and later, a surface-to surface Nour missile.

A medium-range surface-to-air missile was successfully launched on Sunday, Iranian media reported.

Iran has conducted 10 days of exercises near the Strait of Hormuz, through which 20% of the world’s oil passes.

Tehran said on Monday that “mock” exercises on shutting the strait had been carried out, although there was no intention of closing it