Iran General NewsFrance says advises French firms to avoid Iran

France says advises French firms to avoid Iran

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Reuters: Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said on Sunday France had advised firms including oil giant Total and gas firm Gaz de France not to respond to tenders in Iran, putting more pressure on Tehran over its atomic programme. By Francois Murphy

PARIS, Sept 16 (Reuters) – Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said on Sunday France had advised firms including oil giant Total and gas firm Gaz de France not to respond to tenders in Iran, putting more pressure on Tehran over its atomic programme.

In an interview on LCI television and RTL radio, Bernard Kouchner said France was pushing for tougher U.N. sanctions against the Islamic republic but also preparing with Germany for possible European economic measures against Tehran.

“We have already asked a certain number of our large companies to not respond to tenders, and it is a way of signalling that we are serious,” Kouchner said.

“We are not banning French companies from submitting. We have advised them not to. These are private companies. But I think that it has been heard and we are not the only ones to have done this.”

Kouchner said the companies included “Total, for example, Gaz de France, and others, of course”.

Total is in negotiations with Iran for building the country’s first liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminal. The deal was signed in February 2004 and had been due to start up in 2009, but negotiations on the price are still ongoing.

The LNG terminal would take gas from the giant South Pars field and was worth $12 billion in 2004, Iran has said.

PROJECTS

Gaz de France is a possible partner for the Nabucco gas pipeline project that can take liquified gas to Europe from northern Iraq and Iran.

France has repeatedly said it wants the United Nations Security Council to pass a tougher set of sanctions against Tehran over its failure to dispel fears that it is secretly pursuing nuclear weapons.

Tehran denies the charge, saying it only wants to generate electricity, but it has not complied with Security Council demands that it suspend uranium enrichment and other sensitive work that could potentially be used in bomb-making.

Paris has recently hardened its tone, saying its priority is to agree a third set of U.N. sanctions with major powers the United States, Germany, Russia, China and Britain, but that it could also push for separate European Union measures.

“We have decided to … prepare ourselves for possible sanctions outside the U.N. sanctions and which would be European sanctions. Our German friends proposed it. We discussed it a few days ago,” Kouchner said.

The measures would be economic and related to “financial networks”, he added.

His remarks appeared at odds with recent comments by Germany, which has said that if Iran cooperated fully with the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog and cleared up doubts about its nuclear programme, discussion of fresh sanctions would not be necessary.

The United States plans to host a meeting of major powers on Sept. 21 to discuss a possible third round of U.N. sanctions.

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