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Trade deal pulls Iran in from the cold

By Carl Mortished
The Times (London)
October 2, 2000

BRITAIN is to grant medium- term credit insurance for exports to Iran in a move aimed at pushing the British up the league of exporters to the Islamic Republic.

The decision to bring Iran back into the fold of countries eligible for the range of export credits was announced yesterday by Richard Caborn in the first visit by a UK trade minister to Tehran for two decades.

It was a big opportunity for UK companies to win export deals at a time when US rivals were barred from trading with Iran, he said. Last year's UK exports to Iran were worth only Pounds 240 million, well behind Germany and France. Germany accounts for 33 per cent of G6 exports to Iran, while Britain has 11 per cent.

The Export Credits Guarantee Department's decision to grant cover coincides with a big push by oil companies to secure oil and gas development contracts from NIOC, Iran's national oil company.

The Islamic Republic is making tentative moves to open its oil sector to foreign investment in an effort to raise output and generate dollars to support a five-year investment plan. The key project is the South Pars gasfield, a huge reservoir in the Gulf, to be developed in three phases. The contract for the first phase for domestic gas consumption was won by a consortium of France's TotalFina Elf, Russia's Gazprom, and Petronas of Malaysia.

Rival gas companies, including Britain's Shell and BG International, are vying for the second phase. Shell agreed in November to invest $ 800 million to develop two offshore oilfields, Soroush and Nowruz.


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