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Ration Rumors Spark Long Lines At Iranian Gas Stations

Drivers had long waits at gasoline stations in Tehran and several other Iranian cities on May 1.

Iranian drivers queued up in long lines at gasoline stations in the Iranian capital and several other cities on May 1 to fill their gas tanks amid rumors that gasoline rationing would go into effect on May 2.

Iran's Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zangeneh denied the rumors, calling them a "lie" and saying that there will be an explanation "later." He did not elaborate.

Razmezan Shojaei Kaisari, an official with Iran's Interior Ministry, said a final decision had not been made about "the extent" or "timing" of rationing while adding that the issue was being reviewed.

Videos and photos posted on social media showed long lines of cars at several gas stations in Tehran as well as in other cities, including Karaj and Qom, located west and south of the capital.

The rumors, which are said to have first been reported by Iranian hard-liners' news agencies, come amid rising prices and high inflation resulting from renewed U.S. sanctions that have contributed to the fall of Iran's national currency.

The price of food staples such as meat and poultry has increased by more than 50 percent in recent months, according to figures released by the Statistical Center of Iran.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) said earlier this week that inflation in Iran could reach 40 percent as the country copes with the impact of tough U.S. sanctions. That prediction was made before Washington announced it was eliminating oil waivers for buyers of Iranian oil.

Iran's fuel consumption is reported to be among the highest in the world due to cheap, subsidized oil prices.

In March 2018, the managing director of National Iranian Oil Products Distribution Company (NIOPDC) was quoted as saying Iranians consumed 80.3 million liters of gasoline per day during the previous year.

Fuel rationing introduced in 2007 under former President Mahmud Ahmadinejad to curb consumption led to anger and violence, including the torching of several gas stations.

In recent weeks, Iranian state media has reported that the reintroduction of the rationing system was being discussed.

Earlier this week, Zangeneh said a price increase and rationing were the only ways to fix the fuel situation in the country where smuggling to neighboring countries is said to be widespread.

"Raising the price of fuel to the point that people can endure is rational," Zangeneh was quoted as saying by the semiofficial ISNA news agency.

With reporting by IRNA and ISNA
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