Iran: labor strife, pipeline blast as tension grows in Persian Gulf
Workers at two major industrial enterprises in Iran's southern province of Khuzestan are on strike, according to a report on Radio Farda, Persian-language service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. The report says some 1,500 employees of the Imam Port Petrochemical Complex have been staging gatherings in front of the company headquarters since April 9 to demand their work contracts be concluded directly with the plant's management rather than with contractors. The Free Union of Workers in Iran told Radio Farda that 1,000 workers at the Pars Paper Mill in southwestern Iran similarly launched a strike on April 9, protesting the dismissal of 60 workers who were on temporary contracts with the factory. (RFE/RL, April 12)
Meanwhile, a member of the Iranian parliament blamed Western "enemies" for a blast that hit a major gas pipeline near the holy city of Qom on April 8. The head of the parliament’s national security committee, Parviz Sorouri told reporters that Western-backed "terrorists" were aiming to bring insecurity to Iran’s national energy transfer routes. Iranian officials continue to investigate the exact cause of the explosion, which struck a gas line near Qom. No one was hurt in the blast. The apparent bomb attack was the second attack on a gas pipeline in Iran in as many months.
The incident comes as tensions in the Persian Gulf region are rapidly escalating, with Iran accused of a hand in protest movements that were put down by a combined military force of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates—apparently with Washington's approval. Over the weekend, Iran expelled three Kuwaiti diplomats in retaliation for Kuwait's expulsion of three Iranian officials earlier this month. The Kuwaiti government accused the Iranians of spying on US military bases in the Gulf state.
Fears over the development of Iran’s nuclear program were back in the spotlight last week with the release of a report from an exiled Iranian opposition group that claimed to reveal the location of a "secret" centrifuge factory 80 miles west of Iran’s capital, Tehran. The National Council for Resistance in Iran—civilian wing of the outlawed People’s Mujahadeen Organization—released what it said were satellite photographs of a facility that has produced parts for 100,000 uranium enrichment centrifuges over the past four years. (NYT, April 12)