Iran Oil Min: Continuing Talks with Total Over South Pars

VIENNA Mar 14, 2007 (Dow Jones Newswires)

Iran is continuing talks with Total S.A. (TOT) over developing a gas project in the Persian Gulf, the country's oil minister said Wednesday, saying he wasn't aware of call from some hardline lawmakers for the French oil major to quickly sign an agreement or leave the Islamic nation.

"I'm totally unaware of that, it is not our style," Kazem Vaziri Hamaneh said, speaking ahead of a meeting of ministers from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.

Vaziri said he met two days ago with the new head of Total in Iran and had "nice talks." The minister didn't elaborate on when he expected a deal to be signed.

Total says it expects to be able to make a decision to start drilling at the giant South Pars gas field, in Iran's part of the Persian Gulf in the next few months. It says it will weigh the political risk involved once technical and commercial discussions are over.

A breakthrough on South Pars would come amid considerable international tensions over Iran's nuclear ambitions. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Wednesday warned the West that it would deepen the rift with Iran by imposing more U.N. sanctions in punishment for Tehran's refusal to halt its disputed nuclear program.

The major powers in the U.N. Security Council are discussing a new package of sanctions against Iran and appear to be moving closer to agreement on new measures to pressure Iran to suspend uranium enrichment.

The South Pars gas field holds about 1 billion barrels of proven reserves and won't start producing before 2011, Total executives have said.

At an Iranian investment conference in Vienna in early February, Iranian oil officials said they hoped that a deal would be signed with Total by late March, which is also the end of the current Iranian calendar year.

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

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