Iran Formally Offers 17 Oil Blocks to Investors

VIENNA Feb. 1, 2007 (Dow Jones Newswires)

Iran formally offered 17 onshore and offshore oil blocks for development at conference in Vienna that attracted many non-U.S. international oil companies despite rising international pressure on Tehran over its nuclear program.

Five of the blocks are offshore.

"NIOC has ambitious plans to expand its production over the next decade both onshore and offshore," Gholam Hossein Nozari, Iran's deputy oil minister and managing director of the state-run National Iranian Oil Co. said. Conference participants include officials from companies such as China Petroleum & Chemical Corp. (SNP), or Sinopec, Norway's Statoil ASA (STO), Royal Dutch Shell PLC (RDSB.LN), Italy's Eni SpA (E), France's Total SA (TOT) and Russia's Lukoil (LKOH.RS).

Iran is facing the threat of limited international sanctions agreed Dec. 23 by the U.N. Security Council.

The U.S. Navy is sending a second aircraft carrier to the Gulf region next month and where it hasn't had a second carrier since the early days of the Iraq invasion in 2003.

U.S. President George W. Bush said Monday the U.S. "will respond firmly" if Iran escalates military action in Iraq and endangers U.S. forces. The U.S. accuses Iran of arming and training Shiite Muslim extremists in Iraq. U.S. troops have responded by arresting Iranian diplomats in Iraq, and the White House has said Bush signed an order allowing U.S. troops to kill or capture Iranians inside Iraq.

An Indian executive at the Iran oil conference said: "You tell me a country where there aren't any problems when it comes to investing." Iran, he added, is simply "a different nature of...problem."

Copyright (c) 2007 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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