Angry Iranians attacked several gas stations in protest after the government suddenly began long-threatened fuel rationing, while many others rushed to fill their tanks.
The Oil Ministry announced the start of rationing Tuesday night only three hours before it was due to begin at midnight. The sudden announcement sparked long lines at stations as Iranians tried to get one last fill-up before the limitations kicked in.
Several stations were attacked "by vandals," state radio reported early Wednesday. It did not say how many stations were damaged or give details.
The Iranian government had been planning for weeks to implement rationing, which was supposed to begin May 21 but was repeatedly put off. In May, the government reduced subsidies for gas, causing a 25 per cent jump in the price.
The issue is hugely sensitive in this oil-rich nation, where people are used to having cheap and plentiful gas. Hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad came to power in 2005 election based largely on his promises to improve the faltering economy. But his failure to do so has sparked widespread criticism.
Iran is the second biggest exporter in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. But because it has low refining capability, it has to import more than 40 percent of its gasoline needs.
Under the rationing plan, Iranians will be allowed to buy only a certain amount of gas per month at the subsidized price.
By 2014, Iran wants to raise its oil production capacity to 5.3 million barrels a day, from the current 4.3 million barrels, and natural gas from 560 million cubic meters a day to 1.5 billion cubic meters, Iranian Minister of Petroleum Kazem Vaziri Hamaneh said recently.