Tehran: A senior Iranian oil official was on Monday quoted as saying a deadline for France’s Total and Royal Dutch Shell to agree on developing two major energy assets in the Gulf would expire on April 18.
But the comments by Seifollah Jashnsaz, head of the National Iranian Oil Company, were contradicted by managing director Ali Vakili of the Pars Oil and Gas Company, who reportedly said the deadline expires during the Iranian month ending in June.
The two officials’ statements were carried by the Fars and ISNA news agencies.
Iran urged Total and Shell in October to finalise their deals on the giant South Pars gas project by mid-2008 or lose the contracts, after the two oil firms delayed investment due to soaring cost.
Iranian Oil Minister Gholamhossein Nozari last month said Tehran would not extend the June deadline.
ISNA quoted Jashnsaz as saying: “The last deadline … would be the end of Farvardin [the Iranian month that ends on April 18].”
But ISNA and Fars also cited Vakili as saying the deadline was in Khordad, the Iranian month which ends on June 19, and that it would not be extended.
“The deadline of Shell and Total in South Pars phases 11 and 13 will not be extended and probably Asian companies will replace them,” Vakili said, according to Fars.
“Negotiations with a number of Asian and European companies have begun, and in the event that Shell and Total do not act within the specified time period, Asian companies will replace them,” he said.
Iran, facing mounting pressure from the West to abandon its nuclear ambitions, is seeking to attract foreign investors to help it develop its huge gas and oil reserves. But talks are often protracted and can take a long time to finalise.
Iran, with the world’s second-largest gas reserves after Russia, had previously warned Total not to bow to political pressure to steer clear of the country.