TEHRAN, April 12 (UPI) -- Work on shifting control of the Iranian oil refining sector from government to private hands is under way, officials announced.
Iran aims to privatize its refining and oilfield services sector to offset potential problems from Western-backed sanctions.
Massoud Mir Kazemi, the Iranian oil minister, told the semiofficial Mehr News Agency during the weekend that "all petrochemical units and refineries" will be shifted to private hands.
International companies such as oil and gas trader Vitol and Russia's oil giant Lukoil suspended work with Iran because of Western economic pressure. China, however, could play a role in the privatization effort despite Beijing's relationship with the United States, the Emirati newspaper The National reports.
Tehran in exchange for Chinese access to the Iranian upstream oil and gas sector has looked for major investments to help refining activity in the country as hundreds of firms go on the auction block.
A 2009 effort to privatize the Iranian telecommunications sector, however, led to the Iranian military taking a larger stake in the Telecommunication Company of Iran.