Deputy minister: €2b attracted for developing domestic refining sector
Domestic Economy Desk
Iran has so far secured €2 billion in foreign fund to develop domestic oil refining sector, said an Iranian deputy oil minister.
Alireza Sadeqabadi, who is also the managing director of the National Iranian Oil Refining and Distribution Company (NIORDC), added made by China, the investment is planned to be used in the development of Abadan Refinery in southern Iran, IRNA reported.
He noted that negotiations with other foreign firms on obtaining funds for renovating other Iranian refineries and optimizing their performance have not yet produced favorable results.
The NIORDC CEO added Iran has achieved self-sufficiency in implementing oil refining and gasoline production projects.
He put at 2.1 million barrels the country’s current oil and gas condensates refining capacity.
Chinese investment in the development of Abadan Refinery has been among the largest foreign funds obtained by Iran following the going into force of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in January 2016. The deal was signed between Tehran and P5+1 in July 2015.
Implementation of the project to renovate Abadan Refinery began in February 2017. A number of the refinery’s units will come on stream in coming months.
Abadan Refinery is among the oldest Iranian refineries that, due to using outdated technologies, is among the country’s loss-making production units.
The refinery produces large amounts of mazut, making a loss of up to $800 million per annum. The renovation of the refinery unit will help it end its loss-making cycle.
The refinery’s development project is jointly underway by China’s Sinopec International Petroleum Exploration and Production Corporation and Iran’s Oil Design and Construction Company.
Following the completion of the refinery’s development project, it will produce premium gasoline, kerosene, diesel and mazut according to Euro 5 emissions standards, in addition to supplying feedstock to Bandar Imam Petrochemical Complex, Abadan Petrochemical Company, Iranol Oil Company and Pasargad Oil Company.
Barzani: Without Iran, voice of Kurds wouldn’t reach anywhere
Japan banks to resume Iran oil transactions
Major Japanese banks are set to resume Iranian oil transactions after receiving final regulatory clearance, paving the way for the country’s refiners to begin loadings as early as this month, sources with direct knowledge of the matter told S&P Global Platts Tuesday.
The Japanese banks will be able to issue letters of credit for relevant deals after the clearance from the Japanese and US regulatory authorities, one of the sources who spoke on condition of anonymity said.
These banks are expected to accept payment by Japanese refiners for importing Iranian barrels mainly in yen, the source added.
Two of the Japanese banks declined to comment Tuesday.
Japanese refiners and shipping companies have recently clarified their concerns over relevant shipping insurance.
Japan’s JXTG Holdings intends to resume loading oil from Iran at the end of January, while Cosmo Oil aims to load around 1.8 million barrels of Iranian crude at the end of this month upon final clearances, the presidents of the companies told Platts on January 7.
“We hope to resume [Iranian oil imports] as soon as possible,” said Tsutomu Sugimori, president of JXTG Holdings, the parent of Japan’s largest refiner, JXTG Nippon Oil & Energy. “As we see Iran as an important crude source, we intend to resume [the loadings] immediately as soon as it is clear to do so.”
Shunichi Tanaka, president of Cosmo Oil, said it was awaiting final clearance from Japanese banks before moving ahead to resume loadings from Iran, after having its shipping insurance concerns clarified.
Spokesmen at JXTG Nippon Oil & Energy and Cosmo Oil said Tuesday that that the refiners are still preparing for the resumption of Iranian oil imports.
Japan was among eight countries to receive a 180-day waiver from US sanctions. The waiver expires in early May, when the country will be expected to cut purchases significantly. However, a lack of clarity over rules for shipping insurance had meant Japanese refiners were avoiding loadings of Iranian oil for January despite the waiver.
Japan did not import any crude from Iran in November. The country last recorded zero Iranian oil imports in July 2012 during the last international sanctions against Tehran. There was a brief suspension of loadings from Iran until the introduction of government-backed shipping insurance for protection and indemnity cover.
South Korea imports
South Korea, another major Iranian oil buyer that shut out supplies last year even before US sanctions on Iran took effect, is finally set to receive cargoes once again.
The National Iranian Tanker Company’s Silvia I is expected to reach South Korea – Tehran’s third-biggest customer before it stopped purchases in August – on Jan. 15, according to vessel-tracking data compiled by Bloomberg and released on Monday. The cargo could be the first of at least 14 million barrels from the Islamic Republic that will reach the nation’s shores through April.
Shipments are resuming after South Korea, along with some other buyers, managed to secure waivers from the US to continue buying Iranian oil even after American sanctions on the Islamic Republic went into effect in early November. The exemption was critical for the North Asian country as it allowed the purchase of 200,000 barrels a day of an ultralight oil known as condensate, which is used by several domestic refineries that are designed to process such supply.
Unlike other major buyers from Iran such as India and China, which only curbed buying from the Islamic Republic, South Korea entirely halted purchases under pressure from the US. Even after the US granted the exemptions, South Korea was unable to immediately resume purchases. They had to clear other hurdles surrounding insurance, shipping and payment before that.
Now, top refiner SK Innovation Co. is expected to receive two million barrels of Iranian South Pars condensate for arrival in January, according to traders with knowledge of the matter. Supplies could arrive in two Suezmax tankers with oil-carrying capacity of one million barrels each. Petrochemical producer Hanwha Total Petrochemical Co. has bought 12 million barrels of the oil for delivery in February to April. Details of Hyundai Oilbank Co.’s purchase plan remain unclear.
Demand for Iranian condensate has surged in the last five years after South Korean firms Lotte Chemical Corp. and Hyundai Oilbank jointly began operations at a unit known as a splitter in Daesan, while Hanwha Total brought online a new facility in the same region.
Rouhani: US attempts to undermine Iran’s regional role will fail
President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday the United States has been seeking to push Iran aside and take the matters of this region in its own hands, but that its attempts to undermine the Islamic Republic’s regional role will certainly fail.
Speaking at a meeting of the administrative council of Golestan Province, Rouhani said the US has been trying to prevent the Islamic Republic from acting as a “frontrunner” and an influential player in the region.
Rouhani cited the US-backed Saudi war against Yemen as an example.
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Iran gov’t gets clearance for $30b foreign finance
The Iranian government has been allowed to get up to $30 billion in finance from foreign lenders for infrastructure projects, a spokesman for the Parliament’s ad-hoc budget review committee said on Tuesday.
Mohammad Mehdi Mofatteh said panel gave the government the green light to secure $5 billion of the foreign finance from Russia.
“In another clause, the government was allowed to receive $5 billion in loans from Russia for development projects,” ICANA reported.
The news of Russia’s loan to Iran for joint infrastructure projects first came in October 2015 when Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak traveled to Tehran, Press TV wrote.
At the time, Novak said Russia and Iran had agreed to $40 billion in projects.
Last year, presidential aide Yuri Ushakov said Russian investment in developing Iran’s oil and gas fields could total more than $50 billion but nothing has been firmed up yet.
Iranian officials say the country needs $200 billion of investments for upstream and downstream projects by 2021 but the US sanctions reimposed in May and November after leaving the 2015 nuclear deal prompted Iran to find other ways, including securing foreign finance, to advance its development projects.
UN delivered food for 9.5 million in Yemen last month
The UN food agency delivered emergency food and vouchers for over 9.5 million people in Yemen in December, just shy of its 10 million monthly target in the famine-threatened country, a spokesman said on Tuesday.
Yemen’s nearly four-year war and economic collapse have left 15.9 million people, 53 percent of the population, facing “severe acute food insecurity”, and famine looms if immediate action is not taken, a survey said last month, Reuters wrote.
“We were at a bit less than 10 million because the actual situation slowed down a bit the distribution in some areas. The security is not as good as expected in some areas,” World Food Programme spokesman Herve Verhoosel told a Geneva news briefing.
“Some of our trucks were also stopped for longer than usual in some security checkpoints.”
Verhoosel later clarified that the figures represented food aid that was “dispatched” to local distribution centers across Yemen but not all had been handed out to recipients yet.
The WFP, which got supplies to 7-8 million Yemenis in November, is trying to reach as many as 12 million people at risk of starvation. In December it said that some food aid meant for Yemenis was being stolen and sold in some areas.
UN-brokered peace negotiations between the Saudi-backed former Yemen government and the Houthis held in Stockholm last month yielded a shaky cease-fire deal in the lifeline port city of Hodeida.
In January, the WFP managed to deliver food to more than 10,000 families in two hard-hit areas of Hodeida – Tahita and Duraihmi – for the first time since July, thanks to a reduction in fighting, Verhoosel said.
“The truce is inconsistent, there are still some sporadic problems in and around Hodeida.”
NYT: Trump mulled withdrawing US from NATO
US President Donald Trump privately said several times last year that he wanted to withdraw his country from the NATO, The New York Times reported.
The newspaper’s findings, which cited unnamed senior administration officials, are likely to resurface worries of a breakdown in the military alliance that was created in 1949 by the United States, Canada and some European nations, CNBC reported.
Those concerns were first sparked last year when the US leader hinted that he could leave the 29-member defense bloc without congressional approval. At the time, Trump was pushing member countries to increase spending. Since then, however, the Republican has backtracked on that threat.
After a chaotic NATO meeting in July 2018, Trump claimed that allies had committed to his request and said that US withdrawal from the organization would be “unnecessary.”
Responding to The New York Times’ report, a White House official repeated some of Trump’s remarks from July when the president said Washington’s commitment to NATO is “very strong” and the alliance is “very important.” The White House did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment, which was sent outside office hours.
Trump’s dislike for participation in international organizations is well known to global leaders by now. Early in his White House tenure, the president withdrew the US from the Paris climate accord and a massive Pacific trade pact.
Rivalry and revenge: Iran to face Iraq at Asian Cup
One of football’s great rivalries takes center stage at the 2019 AFC Asian Cup today when Iran plays Iraq still smarting from its controversial exit four years ago.
Iran played most of the classic 2015 quarterfinal with 10 men after Mehrdad Pooladi’s hotly disputed first-half dismissal but when it ended 3-3 after extra time, Iraq edged the penalty shootout, AFP reported.
Iran’s protest that Iraq yielded an ineligible player was dismissed as Carlos Queiroz’s three-time winner was sent packing from the tournament in Australia.
Four years on from their clash in Canberra, Iran forward Saman Qoddos said memories were still fresh as Iran takes on Iraq in their final game of Group D.
“Iraq are tough opponents and I think that this will be a revenge match for us,” said Ghoddos, according to Iran’s Varzesh3 website.
“I’ve been waiting for this match ever since the last Asian Cup. We will win this match for the people.”
Football is one of the remaining points of contention between the Middle East neighbors, who fought a war in the 1980s in which hundreds of thousands of people died.
Relations between the two countries have warmed since the removal of long-serving Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003, but games between the two are not for the faint-hearted.
Iran, the three-time Asian Cup winner, leads Iraq on goal difference at the top of Group D, with both teams already qualified for the next round.
Former Real Madrid and Portugal coach Queiroz, linked with a move to the Colombia national team after the Asian Cup, said his prime concern was maintaining Iran’s perfect start.
“In football, the most important match is always the next one and every match is like a final for us in the tournament,” Queiroz said.
“Iraq are a strong team and they are one of the favorites to win the title. We have to be at our best.”
Iran has not won the Asian title since 1976 but it has been the most impressive so far among the 24 teams in the newly-expanded tournament.
A 5-0 thrashing of Yemen was followed by a clinical 3-0 victory over Southeast Asian champion Vietnam.
Iraq, meanwhile, came from behind to beat Vietnam 3-2, and then defeated Yemen 3-0. Facing Asia’s highest-ranked team will be a different challenge entirely, however.
“You can’t compare the matches we had with Vietnam and Yemen to the match against Iran,” said coach Srecko Katanec, who took his native Slovenia to the 2002 World Cup and joined Iraq in September.
“Vietnam played very fluid football for the first 45 minutes and we came out on top. Against Yemen, we were a little complacent and maybe that’s why we need to play a strong team, on paper, like Iran.”
The buildup to the game has been closely followed in both countries, with former Iraqi player Imad Mohammad telling AFP that Iraqi media had played up its “political character”.
“Iraq’s audience is looking at this match with a special lens that distinguishes it from all other matches that it played so far or that it will play in the Asia Cup,” said Iraqi journalist Ghazi Shaea.
Farhadi’s ‘Everybody Knows’ gets six nods at Spain Feroz Awards
Art & Culture Desk
The Spanish psychological thriller of the two-time Oscar-winning director Asghar Farhadi ‘Everybody Knows’ received six nominations at 2019 Feroz Awards.
The ceremony will be held at January 19 at the Bilbao Arena in Spain. It was created in 2013 by the Association of Cinematographic Informants of Spain (AICE). It has both the Cinema and the Television category and has been cataloged by some media as the Globes of Oroespañoles.
The film was nominated for best dramatic film and in this category will compete with ‘Carmen and Lola’, ‘Petra’, ‘Who Will Sing to You’, ‘The Kingdom’ and ‘Trip to a Mother’s Room’.
The film was also nominated for best actress (Penélope Cruz), best actor (Javier Bardem), best supporting actress (Bárbara Lennie), best supporting actor (Eduard Fernández) and best trailer.
‘El reino’ (with 10 nominations), ‘Quién te cantará’ (8), ‘Todos lo sabe’ (‘Everybody Knows’) (6), ‘Petra’ (5), ‘Carmen y Lola’ (4), ‘Trip to a Mother’s Room’ (4) and ‘Champions’ (4), along with series such as ‘Arde Madrid’ (7), ‘Tomorrow’s Day’ (5), ‘Paquita Salas’ (4), ‘Embarrassment’ (4) and ‘Fariña’ (3) will fight to become the winners.
The Spain-set thriller also won nominations for best film, best director, best actor (Javier Bardem), best actress (Penélope Cruz), best original script, best original song (Javier Limón), best supporting actor (Eduard Fernandez) and best editing (Hayedeh Safiyari) at 33rd annual edition of Spain’s top film honors, the Goya Awards on February 2.
The plot centers on Laura (Cruz) on her travels from Argentina to her small hometown in Spain for her sister’s wedding, bringing her two children with her.
Amid the joyful reunion and festivities, the eldest daughter is abducted. In the tense days that follow, various family and community tensions surface and deeply hidden secrets are revealed. Ricardo Darín co-stars in the flick.
ISNA, vozpopuli.com and spainsnews.com contributed to this story.
Erdogan says Turkey to create Syria ‘safe zone’
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday he had discussed a safe zone which Turkey would set up inside Syria along the length of their border, during a phone call with US President Donald Trump which he described as positive.
Trump, who announced he was pulling US troops out of northeast Syria last month, suggested in a tweet on Sunday creating safe zone, without elaborating.
“The safe zone issue, including a safe zone along Turkey’s borders that will be formed by us – an issue that I have brought up since the Obama era – was reiterated by him as 20 miles,” Erdogan told members of his AK Party in Parliament.
He later told reporters that the zone could be extended beyond 20 miles, but did not say by how far.
Erdogan said the zone would keep “terrorists out,” protect civilians and stem the flow of refugees.
Bitter differences between Washington and Ankara over the Kurdish YPG militia had soured talks between the two NATO partners.
The YPG has been a main US ally in Syria, but Turkey views it as a terrorist organization and an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) that has waged a decades-long insurgency in Turkey.
Monday’s call between the two leaders came after Trump threatened Turkey with economic devastation if Turkish forces attacked the YPG militia.
Erdogan said he was saddened by Trump’s tweet but that the phone call later in the day was positive.
Trump’s threat to devastate Turkey’s economy also sparked concern among investors, sending the lira down as much as 1.6 percent on Monday. Erdogan said he and Trump had agreed to improve economic ties during their phone call.
Erdogan said the two leaders reached an “understanding of historical importance.”
“Turkey will continue to do what it has to in order to solve this issue in line with the spirit of its alliance, so long as our rights and laws are respected,” he said. “We reached a historic understanding with Trump last night.”
Reuters and AP contributed to this report.