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Iran Blames Iraq For Dust Storm That Sparked Protests In Oil Province

Iranian authorities said on Monday that Iraq was to blame for a sandstorm that had cut off power and water supply in an oil-rich province and led to street protests against local officials.

According to the AP which quotes state TV, Iran’s vice-president in charge of environmental affairs, Masoumeh Ebtekar, called upon Iraq to implement an agreement to prevent dust storms by spreading mulch over thousands of square miles of desert.

Earlier this month, a sandstorm led to power outages and temporarily cut off water supply in much of the southwestern Iranian province of Khuzestan bordering Iraq, reducing oil production by 700,000 bpd.

Following the sandstorm and power supply cuts, residents of the oil-rich Iranian city of Ahvaz with a majority Arab population took to the streets last week to protest against continuous power failures, air pollution, and government mismanagement.

The city of Ahvaz is the capital of the wealthy Khuzestan province, rich in oil and natural gas and located in southwest Iran close to the Iraqi border. Ahvaz has often topped the unfortunate ranking of the world’s most polluted cities.

Referring to the protests, local police have issued a statement that people refrain from “illegal gatherings” and warned them they would be “confronted” if they continued those gatherings, according to the New York Times.

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Iran hints that the dust storms originate in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Syria, and has urged their authorities to address the problem.

According to PressTV, the Iranian state broadcaster’s English-language outlet, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called upon Iranian officials on Monday “to immediately address the problems” that the residents of the Khuzestan province are facing. Most recently, the Khuzestan province has been afflicted by torrential rains and the province “had already been reeling from sandstorms, which are said to originate in Iraq and Saudi Arabia,” Press TV said.

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By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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