WORLD NEWS TOMORROW – IRAN: Iran backs the Iraqi government’s candidate for the post of OPEC secretary-general, said Hussain al-Shahristani, Iraq’s deputy prime minister for energy affairs.

Iranian Oil Minister Rostam Qasemi expressed his country’s support for former Iraqi Oil Minister Thamir Ghadhban during talks in Baghdad today, Shahristani said in an e-mailed statement. Qasemi also discussed with Shahristani ways of boosting cooperation between the neighboring countries in the field of energy, by exchanging expertise and encouraging Iranian companies to invest in Iraq, Shahristani said.

Iraq’s Cabinet nominated Ghadhban, 67, to the post of secretary-general of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries on March 6, competing against a candidate from Saudi Arabia, OPEC’s de facto leader. Ghadhban is currently a top adviser to the Iraqi prime minister. He was oil minister in 2004 and 2005, after the U.S.-led invasion ousted Saddam Hussein.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki maintains close ties with the leadership in neighboring Iran which has tense relations with other Gulf neighbors including Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest crude exporter, nominated Majid al-Moneef, its OPEC governor, as head of the producer group, a person with knowledge of the matter said Feb. 1. Ecuador, OPEC’s smallest producer, nominated Oil Minister Wilson Pastor, a person with knowledge of the matter said May 31.

OPEC’s current secretary-general, Abdalla el-Badri of Libya, will complete his second three-year term at the end of this year. OPEC ministers will probably consider the nominations at their June 14 meeting at the organization’s Vienna headquarters. OPEC’s members are Algeria, Angola, Ecuador, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Venezuela.