Iran’s former economy minister to head oil firm

Karbasian impeached by parliament in August over handling of country’s economic woes, set to take over national oil company.

TEHRAN - Iran's former economy minister, impeached less than three months ago, will head the national oil company as it works to evade renewed US sanctions, local media reported Monday.

Masoud Karbasian, 67, was impeached by parliament on August 26 after only a year in the job, over his handling of the country's economic downturn.

In a short statement run by the state-run Iran newspaper Monday, he vowed to "use four decades of experience... to overcome the sanctions crisis."

Karbasian takes over the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) at a crucial moment following the US oil embargo that was reimposed on November 5.

Although he kept a very low profile during his tenure as economy minister, he was praised in the reformist Sazandegi newspaper on Monday for his "anti-corruption" stance -- particularly during an earlier stint as head of customs.

But there was some confusion over his appointment, since he is in breach of a new law barring anyone over 60 -- the age of retirement -- from public office.

Parliament passed the law in September, and it was used to remove outgoing NIOC head Ali Kardor, who is three years younger than Karbasian, according to several newspapers.

The Iran daily said Karbasian's age was overlooked due to "sanctions and the gravity of sustaining oil sales".

The US reimposed sanctions on Iran after deciding in May to abandon a landmark multi-lateral deal signed in 2015 over the Islamic Republic's nuclear programme.

Temporary exemptions have been granted to several key customers of Iran's oil, including China and India.

But Iranian authorities are seeking alternative and clandestine methods to keep oil flowing as Washington remains determined to eventually force its exports down to zero.

The unaffiliated Haft-e Sobh newspaper described the new NIOC chief as "special agent: Masoud Karbasian".

It said his appointment was approved by the Council for Special Economic Measures, set up during the previous sanctions period between 2010 and 2015, headed by President Hassan Rouhani, and whose decisions are taken in consultation with supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.