Khatami denounces bribery charges as not unexpected

Jul 09, 2001 02:00 AM

Iranian President Mohammad Khatami denounced bribery charges levelled against the oil ministry by a leading conservative cleric, but said they were not "unexpected". "This campaign, which comes just after the June 8 presidential elections, is unjust but not unexpected," said Khatami in a letter addressed to Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zangeneh.
"Crimes, wherever they are, should be dealt with, and it is extremely doubtful why those who claim that an offence has been committed, do not pass on their information to the concerned bodies rather than provoke public opinion," the moderate cleric said. In his letter, Khatami called on Zangeneh to "follow up" on the accusations "in perfect coordination" with the judiciary and the intelligence ministry.
Khatami's comments come just two days after Zangeneh himself condemned the corruption charges as "serious defamatory statements, which justify court action." Zangeneh said his ministry "intends to follow through on this affair," but said he was "open to any criticism and comment over (foreign) oil contracts" made by Iran.
The minister added that a commission including a representative of the president, studies and evaluates Iranian oil contracts. These reactions come after a leading conservative cleric and secretary of the powerful supervisory Guardians Council alerted the judiciary to possible cases of bribery at the ministry.

Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati announced "that he would be informing the nation's highest judicial authority of immense kickbacks and dubious contracts within the oil ministry,". Jannati had reportedly claimed to have the names of those people who "plundered millions and millions in the oil empire and transferred the money to their foreign accounts."
The oil ministry has welcomed the identification of all the people involved in the scandal and asked Jannati to provide Khatami, the ministry, as well as all other responsible officials with the necessary information. The dozen or so contracts concluded with European firms over the past six years have all been on the so-called buy-back basis, whereby future revenue from the oil and gas produced provides the return on investment.

The formula has been repeatedly criticised by both conservatives and reformists in parliament, but they have failed to change it and a probe mounted last year failed to make progress. Negotiations on the contracts are the sole responsibility of Iran's National Oil Company, NIOC. Khatami was re-elected on June 8 to a second four-year term in office, the maximum allowed under the Iranian constitution, winning close to 80 % of the votes.

Source: AFP via Energy24
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