News ID: 215973
Published: 0101 GMT May 30, 2018

Iran sets sanctions waiver deadline for oil giant Total

Iran sets sanctions waiver deadline for oil giant Total

French oil major Total has two months to seek exemption from US sanctions after Washington’s withdrawal from the international nuclear deal, Iran’s oil minister said on Wednesday.

Bijan Namdar Zanganeh added that failure to secure an exemption would mean that China’s state-owned CNPC could take over Total’s stake in the South Pars gas project, lifting its own interest from 30 percent to more than 80 percent.

The United States this month said it would impose new sanctions against oil and gas producer Iran after abandoning the 2015 agreement that limited Tehran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.

“Total has 60 days to negotiate with the US government,” Zanganeh said, adding that the French government could also lobby Washington.

The oil minister did not explain why the French firm only had 60 days, with US sanctions on foreign energy companies in Iran not due to kick in until November 4.

Total was the only western firm to finalize an investment deal in Iran's energy sector following the 2015 nuclear deal.

It signed the agreement last July to become the lead partner in a $4.8 billion (4.1 billion euro) project to develop the South Pars 11 gas field, alongside the China National Petroleum Corporation and Iran's Petropars.

Total said on May 16 that it would pull out of South Pars if it did not receive a waiver from the United States.

Total’s chief executive said last week he held little hope of receiving a waiver from the United States to keep investing in the huge Iranian gas project.

“In Iran we need a waiver from the United States. You heard Mr. Pompeo just as I did. Do you really think he’s going to hand out waivers,” Patrick Pouyanne told reporters in the Russian city of St. Petersburg, referring to the threat by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to impose the “the strongest sanctions in history” against Iran.

European powers still see the nuclear accord as a good one and have intensified efforts to save the pact.

Zanganeh also said on national television that an agreement with Europe would inspire other potential buyers of Iranian oil.

“Europe is buying only one-third of Iranian oil, but an agreement with Europe is important to guarantee our sales, and find insurance for the ships ferrying the crude. Other buyers would also be inspired by this,” he said.

Reuters and AFP contributed to this story.

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