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Europe pressed to shun Iranian oilfield
By Carola Hoyos in London
Published: August 15 2003 18:52 | Last Updated: August 15 2003 18:52
Spencer Abraham, US energy secretary, has warned the Netherlands and Italy not to allow its companies to invest in Iran's giant Azadegan oilfield.
Mr Abraham's move, made on a trip to Europe this week, heralds a new US campaign to increase pressure on a reluctant Europe to isolate Iran over its nuclear weapons programme.
In 2000 Iran agreed with the Japanese government to give priority rights to Japex and Indonesia Petroleum, both Japanese companies, to develop the field in return for Japanese loans.
The US State Department in the past months has put pressure on Tokyo to forgo developing the field, which is said to hold up to 45bn barrels of oil.
Mr Abraham, who on Friday cut short his trip to Europe because of the massive power outages in North America, was asked to "secure commitments from other governments and companies" not to step in and snatch up the field if the US was successful in dissuading Japan from making an investment, a senior administration official told the FT.
He said that Japan was "open to the idea of forgoing the field" and that discussions were "moving in the direction we want".
The Iran-Libya Act of 1996 imposed sanctions on non-US companies that invested more than $20m (?17.7m, £12.4m) in Iran's oil or natural gas sector. But neither Bill Clinton, the former president, nor President George W. Bush enforced the measure.
Antonio Marzano, Italy's industry minister, told Mr Abraham that Eni, Italy's biggest energy company - which has interests in both Iran's on and offshore oil and natural gas fields - would provide written assurance that it would not take over the Azadegan field.
However, the Dutch government gave the US no commitment that Royal Dutch/Shell would not widen its investment in Iran. Shell in 1999 signed an $800m deal to develop two oilfields, one of which began production in late 2001.
Shell, together with Total of France and British Petroleum, has also shown interest in another oilfield in south-western Iran.
The US is still looking for a promise by France that Total, which rarely has qualms about investing in countries deemed unacceptable by the US, would not expand its oil and gas activity in Iran.
Iran, which holds 90bn barrels of oil reserves, is counting on foreign investment of up to $5bn a year to increase its daily oil production. This was as high as 6m b/d in 1974 but has remained less than 4m b/d since the revolution in 1979. Despite the threat of US sanctions, more than 90 companies are active or have shown interest in Iran's oil sector. http://news.ft.com/servlet/ContentServer?pagename=FT.com/StoryFT/FullStory&c=StoryFT&cid=1059479056119&p=1012571727162
posted on 08/16/2003 12:23:56 AM PDT
by F14 Pilot
Iran allows sampling ahead of IAEA report
By Najmeh Bozorgmehr in Tehran and Roula Khalaf in London
Published: August 14 2003
Iran allowed UN atomic energy inspectors this week to take samples from a controversial and previously banned site, in an apparent attempt to moderate the tone of a report on Iran due early next month.
The move comes after samples from the Natanz plant removed in June by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) tested positive for enriched uranium, raising further concerns about Iran's nuclear programme.
Saber Zaeimian, spokesman for the Iran Atomic Energy Organisation, confirmed that a four-man IAEA team, which ended a three-day visit to Iran yesterday, had taken samples from the Kalay-e-Electric company "and other places they asked for".
The IAEA had complained in a report to its board in June that it had been barred from taking environmental samples at Kalay-e-Electric, suspected of being part of Iran's uranium enrichment project.
According to western diplomats the agency's concerns over Iran's nuclear programme have been exacerbated by the results of the samples taken in June, which suggest that Iran could have tested centrifuges with enriched uranium.
Diplomats said that while the samples were not proof of aweapons programme they contradicted earlier Iranian assertions.
Tehran insists its nuclear programme is strictly for civilian use. But it has faced increased international pressure to agree to enhanced inspections of its sites by signing the "additional protocol" to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
Pressure will intensify if the new IAEA report raises fresh suspicions by finding that Iran had once again breached the so-called safeguards agreement. The US could seek to find Iran in violation of the NPT and refer the issue to the UN Security Council.
Iranian officials have hinted in recent weeks that, despite misgivings, Tehran will agree to the additional protocol, though western diplomats say a final decision by the leadership has not been reached yet.
Gholamreza Aghazadeh, Iran's top energy official, told reporters yesterday that Iran would address the world's concerns. But he said more discussions with the IAEA were needed on the additional protocol.
"No questions [or] ambiguities remained unanswered," Mr Aghazadeh said after a cabinet meeting. "With our behaviour and co-operation with the IAEA and other countries, we'll remove the world's concerns and [instead] expect them to be transparent."
Iran has demanded assurances it would have access to international help for its civilian nuclear projects if it signed the protocol. But diplomats say Tehran must accept tougher inspections, without conditions, to ease international concerns over its nuclear activities. http://news.ft.com/servlet/ContentServer?pagename=FT.com/StoryFT/FullStory&c=StoryFT&cid=1059479005771&p=1012571727172
posted on 08/16/2003 12:30:31 AM PDT
by F14 Pilot
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