TEHRAN Sept. 28 (Mehr News Agency) – Iran will sign contracts to develop Azadegan oilfield as well as the oil layer of the South Pars gas field by March 2004, Director-General of the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) Mahdi Mir-Moezzi said here Sunday.

The Persian-language newspaper Entekhab quoted Mir-Moezzi as saying that the required credits to fund the two projects will be provided by the state budget of the current Iranian calendar year 1382 (ending March 20, 2004) as well as the surplus budget of the previous years.


Oil Ministry officials had refused to respond to a question whether there had been any new developments in Iran's talks with Japan over developing Azadegan. The official had stressed that there is no comment on the issue, the press reported.


Japan has so far taken no practical steps toward the Azadegan deal. It has officially declared that its oil diplomacy takes priority over its relations with the U.S., but resource-poor Japan has been juggling its desire to have both Iran’s energy and the U.S. satisfaction.


Washington accuses Tehran of using an atomic energy program as a cover for secret development of nuclear weapons, something Iran has strongly rejected.


Tehran had offered preferential rights to a Japanese consortium during President Mohammad Khatami's visit to Japan in 2000 to develop Azadegan for $2.8 billion. The consortium included the government-backed Japan Petroleum Exploration Co and INPEX Corp. as well as trading house Tomen Corp.


Japan in return had pledged to grant a three-billion-dollar credit line to Iran over three years. The country missed a June 31 deadline.


Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh last week said that Iran has cancelled Japan's preferential rights to develop the field, but this does not mean the death of the contract.







News Code 1980

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