Iran caretaker oil minister suggests will stay on

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TEHRAN, Oct 9 (Reuters) Iran's caretaker oil minister today signalled that he expected to stay on in the post by outlining plans he will pursue once nominated by the president, such as speeding up projects in the South Pars gas field.

Gholamhossein Nozari's comments, carried by the Oil Ministry's SHANA Web site, add weight to expectations Nozari will be President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's choice to run the ministry permanently in OPEC's second biggest oil producer.

The president still has to formally propose Nozari to parliament for approval. Kazem Vaziri-Hamaneh, who was sacked in August, was Ahmadinejad's fourth choice after parliament rejected his other candidates.

But several lawmakers have indicated that the nomination of Nozari, who is also head of the state-run National Iranian Oil Company, would be viewed positively.

''Developing and speeding up the implementation of the South Pars projects, especially the joint fields, are among my plans which I will follow up as I do now, once I am nominated by the president as the oil minister,'' Nozari said.

''Enhancing the level of international relations, inviting international contractors to carry out projects in the oil industry, alongside strengthening local contractors and supporting the domesticisation of the oil industry will be among my main activities as oil minister,'' he added.

Ahmadinejad made oil central to his presidential campaign in 2005, pledging to distribute oil earnings more fairly, favour domestic over foreign investors and combat the oil ''mafia'' he said was running the industry.

A state-run newspaper, Iran, yesterday quoted a presidential aide as saying Ahmadinejad would nominate Nozari.

When Vaziri-Hamaneh was dismissed in August, the move was seen by some analysts as a bid by the president to assert greater control over the powerful ministry, which oversees an industry that bring in most of the country's revenues.

Some analysts said Vaziri-Hamaneh had opposed management changes proposed by the president.

REUTERS SG ND1424

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