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The Wall Street Journal: Congress Gets Hot Over Iran Deals: Shell… ‘must be held accountable’

January 30, 2007, 8:34 pm

Some prominent lawmakers want the Bush administration to get tough with European and Asian companies moving ahead with big investment deals in Iran’s lucrative oil and gas industry, the backbone of the country’s economy. Royal Dutch Shell and Spain’s Repsol are the latest companies to announce possible multi-billion dollar exploration deals in Iran — in their case a potential $4.3 billion liquefied-natural-gas project in the south of the country.

The State Department says it is looking into the proposed Shell-Repsol deal, which could run afoul of the Iran Freedom Support Act, a law that calls for sanctions against any companies investing over $20 million in Iran’s oil and gas industry. A similar law has been in place since the late 1990s, but neither the Clinton nor Bush administrations have sanctioned companies operating in Iran.

The ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, says that must change. She said in a statement late Tuesday that the proposed Shell-Repsol deal “would likely violate provisions of the Iran Freedom Support Act, and the two companies and their North American subsidiaries must be held accountable.”

Large oil and gas companies in China, Malaysia, France, Thailand and Australia have all announced potential explorations deals recently in Iran, a trend that Ms. Ros-Lehtinen says “demonstrates a willingness to place profit above security.”

The congresswoman plans this week, with possible high-level Democratic support, to introduce a bill that would require U.S. pension funds to divest from any companies doing business in Iran.
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