Fatal blast rocks refinery as Ahmadinejad visits
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A blast at a newly expanded oil refinery in south-western Iran has killed two people and injured several more during a visit by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is locked in a power struggle with the country's supreme leader, Ali Khamenei.
REUTERS - An explosion at an oil refinery in Iran during a visit by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Tuesday killed two people and injured 12, the Mehr news agency said.
Ahmadinejad was not hurt and appeared on state television shortly after the blast giving a speech marking the inauguration of a new part of the refinery. The semi-official Mehr said the cause of the blast and fire was a gas leak, giving no source for its information.
Thick smoke was seen rising from the refinery in Abadan, south-western Iran, close to the Iraqi border, but firefighters had the blaze under control, Iranian news agencies said. Any damage to the plant would have no impact on oil exports from the world's fifth-biggest exporter as it is involved in producing gasoline, mostly for domestic consumption, not the production of crude.
Iranian media said the blast was caused by a technical fault and did not speculate on the possibility of an attack.
Industrial accidents are far from rare in Iran's oil industry and state broadcaster IRIB said on its website that similar incidents had occurred in the weeks running up to the new plant's inauguration.
But Iran's vital oil and gas infrastructure are often targets for sabotage and several rebel groups pursue bombing campaigns in various parts of the country.
Ahmadinejad, who is embroiled in a power struggle with other factions in Iran's conservative ruling elite, made no mention of the incident in his speech which concentrated on criticising the United States' role in the Middle East.
His presence at the inauguration shows the importance Tehran places on increasing its oil refining capacity at a time when international sanctions have squeezed its ability to import the automotive fuel.