Iran ‘understands’ French energy giant’s caution on gas contract

Deputy oil minister says Tehran is in talks with foreign companies on more than 25 projects, but muddy US trade policy is hurting efforts

An Iranian oil worker rides his bicycle near an oil refinery south of the capital, Tehran, December 22, 2014. (AP/Vahid Salemi/File)
An Iranian oil worker rides his bicycle near an oil refinery south of the capital, Tehran, December 22, 2014. (AP/Vahid Salemi/File)

Iran’s government “understands” French energy giant Total’s caution over investing in the Islamic republic before Washington clarifies its position on trade with Tehran, the country’s deputy oil minister said Saturday.

“Total has announced that it is awaiting America’s final decision with regards to Iran. We understand Total,” said Amir Hossein Zamani Nia, quoted by state news agency IRNA.

“They want to invest five billion dollars. We are not upset with Total,” he said. “Since a month and a half ago… they have spent more than 20 million dollars” on preparing projects in the Islamic republic.

Nia said that Iran was in negotiations with foreign companies on more than 25 projects in the oil and gas sector but it would not be held “hostage” to political demands.

In November, Total was awarded a $4.8 billion contract to develop an offshore gas field at South Pars — the first deal of its kind since international sanctions on Iran were lifted in January under a nuclear deal with world powers.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) said on Monday that uncertainty surrounding the sanctions because of Washington posed a risk to the oil-producing nation’s economy.

US President Donald Trump’s administration last month imposed new sanctions on individuals and companies supporting Iran’s ballistic missile program and its elite Revolutionary Guards.

An annual IMF report on Iran’s economy said “renewed uncertainty regarding sanctions is dampening sentiment.”

The lack of clarity “could deter investment and trade with Iran and short-circuit the anticipated recovery,” the report cautioned.

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