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Tehran Times: EU big firms insist on Iran investment

Print Date : Saturday, September 22, 2007

TEHRAN (Dispatches) — The biggest oil and gas companies in Europe said in spite of France’s call, are serious in investing in Iran.

European nations have failed to echo France’s call to its oil and gas companies not to bid for projects in Iran, Reuters reported.

Tehran says its nuclear program is for electricity generation only but earlier this week, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said his country must prepare for the possibility of war against Iran over the program.

Kouchner said Paris had asked oil giant Total and gas firm Gaz de France not to bid for projects in Iran to signal France was serious and added he thought the companies had heard his advice.

Kouchner hinted other countries had taken similar actions. However, no government contacted by Reuters said it had urged its oil and gas companies to cool dealings with Iran.

Anglo-Dutch oil major Royal Dutch Shell Plc is considering one of the biggest proposed investments in Iran — a multibillion-dollar project to produce natural gas and a plant to liquefy the gas for export in pressurized ships.

However, a spokeswoman for the UK government said it had not asked Shell or others to desist from pursuing Iranian business.

A Dutch government spokesman did not confirm any request to Shell to halt talks with Iran on the project. Sources familiar with the matter said no such request has been made yet.

Vienna said it still supported Austria’s OMV AG in its Iran investments which include proposals to develop oil discoveries in the west of the country.

The government in Rome declined to say if it had asked Milan-based oil major Eni SpA to restrict its Iranian operations, while the Spanish government was unavailable for comment on Madrid-based Repsol’s plans for a major gas project.

————————- U.S. pressure

U.S. legislation has long banned U.S. companies from investing in Iran and in recent years Washington has increased pressure on non-U.S. companies to dissuade them from investing in Iran.

Under U.S. law, Washington could levy penalties on non-U.S. firms for doing business with Iran but in the past support from the European Union and their governments has helped the European oil majors to chase deals in Iran without suffering U.S. retribution.

Other countries seem less eager to discourage trade with Iran. Brazilian state-controlled oil company Petrobras said it continued exploration activities in Iran and knows of no political pressure to quit or not pursue projects in Iran.

Some in the Chinese oil industry even see the possibility of EU sanctions against Iran — which France has suggested could be pursued if the UN failed to agree new sanctions — as an opportunity.

“”It’s a good time for the Chinese to get in there,”” one executive at a Chinese oil firm who asked not to be named said.

Repsol, Shell and ENI declined to say if they had been asked not to bid for Iranian business. OMV said it would stick to European and international laws on Iran trade and that Vienna had not conveyed any new stance yet.

————————– Total: Nothing changes deal with Iran

Furthermore, French oil company, Total S.A. said is still in discussion with Iranian partners.

Senior Vice-President of France’s Total Gas & Power says the recent geopolitical situation will not affect deals with Iranian partners, Xinhua reported.

At a conference in Beijing, Jean-Marc Hosanski said as the developer of an LNG project in the South Pars field, his company was still in discussion with the Iranian side.

Despite French government’s pressure, Total S.A. will look after its own interests in Iran, as it attempts to reduce the cost of the liquefied natural gas project, he added.

“Of course the geopolitical situation is difficult, but we can only put together the conditions to make the deal economical and deal with the political problems later,” Hosanski concluded

http://www.tehrantimes.com/index_View.asp?code=153412

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