Iran warned France it was prepared to go ahead with a major gas project with Total using Iranian firms alone if the French oil giant gives in to political pressure and does not swiftly implement the deal.
“I have a message for French President (Nicolas) Sarkozy,” Caretaker Oil Minister Gholam Hossein Nozari told reporters late on Wednesday.
“If Total does not come here, right here, the Pars LNG contracts will be handed over to capable Iranian hands for them to carry out,” he said.
Under a deal agreed in 2006, Total is slated to exploit the phase 11 of Iran’s giant South Pars gas field to produce liquefied natural gas (LNG) for export and to build a liquefaction plant.
However the final implementation of the deal has been held up by a wrangle over prices, with Iran claiming the French price for the exploitation is too high and Paris saying costs have sky-rocketed since it was agreed.
Nozari’s warning comes after the Sarkozy government said European states should take measures to put pressure on Tehran over its nuclear programme outside the regime of UN sanctions.
Sarkozy’s spokesman has said France wants European firms not to bid for new markets in Iran and for financial institutions to scale back their operations, and to lower their investments.
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner also infuriated Tehran by saying that the world should brace for war over Iran’s nuclear programme, although he later said his comments had been misinterpreted.
France has economic interests in the Islamic republic, most notably in the oil and automobile indistries.