'Blast' At New Iran Oil Refinery As Ahmadinejad Visits

One person has been killed and at least 20 hurt in an explosion at a refinery in Iran during a visit by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iranian media say.

EDITORS' NOTE: Reuters and other foreign media are subject to Iranian restrictions on leaving the office to report, film or take pictures in Tehran. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (R) and the Administrative Justice Tribunal's Mostafa Pourmohammadi attend a meeting in Tehran May 22, 2011.

One person has been killed and at least 20 hurt in an explosion at a refinery in Iran during a visit by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iranian media say.

He was not hurt in the blast and went on to make a televised speech to mark the opening of the oil refinery, in the south-western city of Abadan.

A technical problem caused the blast and then a fire, Fars news agency said.

Thick smoke was seen rising from the refinery but the fire was under control, the semi-official agency said.

Another news agency, Mehr, said the explosion was caused by a gas leak.

The refinery is being launched in two phases and ultimately will produce more than 6m litres (1.3m UK gallons) of petrol a day, mostly for domestic consumption.

FILE - In this Dec. 13, 2009 file photo, Iraqi workers are seen at the Rumaila oil refinery, near the city of Basra, Iraq. Basra is strategically crucial for Iraq. With a population of about 3 million people, Basra is Iraq's second-largest province and home to about 70 percent of the country's proven oil reserves of 143.1 billion barrels. The province, located on the Persian Gulf bordering Kuwait and Iran, is Iraq's only outlet to the sea and is the hub for most of Iraq's oil exports of nearly 1.9 million barrels a day to the international market.

Correspondents say Mr Ahmadinejad's presence shows the importance Iran, a major oil producer, places on increasing its refining capacity as sanctions hit its ability to import petrol.

The port of Abadan has a special significance in Iranian history after post-war Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadeq nationalised the Iranian assets of the Anglo-Iranian oil company, an action which led eventually to a CIA-backed coup which overthrew him and led to decades of Iranian animosity towards the West.

BBC