Reuters: Iran's oil minister told German energy companies they were welcome to invest in the Islamic Republic, which he said could become a major supplier of natural gas to Europe, state broadcaster IRIB reported on Wednesday.
TEHRAN, May 6 (Reuters) – Iran's oil minister told German energy companies they were welcome to invest in the Islamic Republic, which he said could become a major supplier of natural gas to Europe, state broadcaster IRIB reported on Wednesday.
But Gholamhossein Nozari also made clear during a visit to Germany that Iran, which sits atop the world's second-largest gas reserves after Russia, could develop its energy sector in the absence of investment from Western companies.
"Iran can not stop its development. Therefore we move forward with our work with the presence of Russian and Chinese companies," IRIB quoted him as saying during a meeting with managers from German energy companies.
IRIB did not name the executives nor their firms.
Germany, whose consumption of about 100 billion cubic metres of gas a year represents a fifth of the total in the European Union, is among six major powers seeking to convince Iran to suspend nuclear work the West fears is aimed at making bombs.
Tehran says its nuclear programme is aimed at generating electricity but its refusal to halt uranium enrichment has drawn three rounds of U.N. sanctions since 2006, as well as separate U.S.-led financial and other measures.
Analysts say the nuclear dispute has deterred particularly Western companies from investing in Iran, which is also the world's fourth-largest oil producer, while firms from energy-hungry Asian countries are more active.
Germany has been one of the biggest exporters to Iran in recent years, although the government, under pressure from major allies, has urged German companies to limit trade with Tehran.
Berlin has significantly cut the value of new credit guarantees it offers firms that do business with Iran, but German exports to the country still rose last year, according to figures seen by Reuters in February.
Nozari said German companies were only looking at the activities of other firms in Iran's oil and gas sector, IRIB reported.
"German companies should speak with their country's government about some behaviour that is outside the framework of the U.N. resolutions," he said, referring to the U.N. sanctions without elaborating.
"Our arms are open for investment and the presence of different companies," Nozari said. "This country (Iran) can be a major provider of gas for Europe."
Despite its huge reserves, Iran has been slow to develop gas exports, partly because of U.S. sanctions that hinder access to technology, analysts say.
New U.S. President Barack Obama, in a break from the approach of his predecessor George W. Bush, has offered a new beginning of engagement with Iran if it "unclenches its fist." (Reporting by Zahra Hosseinian; Writing by Fredrik Dahl; Editing by Michael Urquhart)