AFP: A large-scale withdrawal from Iran by international companies as part of economic sanctions represent an “opportunity” for domestic companies, the Islamic republic’s oil minister said Thursday.
VIENNA (AFP) — A large-scale withdrawal from Iran by international companies as part of economic sanctions represent an “opportunity” for domestic companies, the Islamic republic’s oil minister said Thursday.
“Iran is not a poor country,” Masoud Mir Kazemi told reporters at a meeting of OPEC oil ministers in Vienna.
At the meeting, the oil cartel’s 12 member states elected Iran as its new president for next year, taking over from Ecuador.
It will be the first time in 36 years that Iran has held the 12-month presidency of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.
“The refraining of Western companies was an opportunity for our own banks and companies to find themselves. Absorbing investment is not a problem,” the minister said.
At the end of September, French giant Total, Anglo-Dutch group Shell, Norway’s Statoil and Italy’s Eni all said they were pulling out of Iran as part of wide-ranging international sanctions to pressure the Islamic republic to halt its controversial nuclear programme.
The West accuses Tehran of seeking to build an atomic bomb under the guise of a civilian nuclear energy programme, a charge Iran vehemently denies.
Iran is OPEC’s second-largest oil producer and holds around 10 percent of world oil reserves but it depends greatly on petrol (gasoline) imports because of its limited refining capacity.
Nevertheless, last month Iran announced it had had achieved self-sufficiency in petrol production and even began exporting its first shipments of domestically made petrol.
“We are not buying (petrol), we’re even exporting,” Mir Kazemi said.
Sanctions had not had any effect, he insisted. Indeed, they were having a “positive effect, providing motivation and increasing the potential of our companies.”
In a report on Wednesday, International Energy Agency said Iranian petrol consumption was down 15.1 percent in July on a 12-month basis, apparently due to “toughened international sanctions” imposed over its nuclear programme.
Mir Kazemi said Tehran would also continue to develop gas as an alternative to petrol for transportation fuel.
He also warned that the international community, and Europe in particular, could not do without Iran when it came to safeguarding energy security.
“Security of energy without Iran has no meaning,” Mir Kazemi said.