Iran on Monday said that negotiations were being held with several oil companies for the development of giant Azadegan oil field, while Japan was still the favorite to sign a deal with, IRNA reported from Tehran.
Tehran, which has offered preferential rights to Tokyo for development of the plum project in southern Iran, is apparently becoming impatient with Japan's foot-dragging on a deal.
"We are holding negotiations with various companies in this regard, but we still welcome signing a deal with the Japanese since initial phases of this have already been carried out with them," Government spokesman Abdollah Ramezanzadeh told reporters here.
Asked to name the companies with which talks were being held, the official said, "I am excused from mentioning the names of the companies for the time being."
Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh said in Vienna Saturday that talks with the Japanese consortia for the development of Azadegan field were continuing, but he did not say how far the chances of reaching a deal was.
"We were (are) emphatic on continuing negotiations with Japan as a priority (since) it is in Asia," he told IRNA on the sidelines of an OPEC meeting.
Tehran offered preferential rights to the Japanese consortia during President Mohammad Khatami's visit to Japan in 2000 to develop the Iran's biggest oil field for 2.8 billion dollars.
Japan in return pledged to grant a three-billion-dollar credit line to Iran over three years.
Iran has said that it preserved the right to enter into negotiations with other oil companies for the development of the huge field since Japan had failed to reach a deal up to the deadline which expired at the end of June.
Azadegan field near the border with Iraq is estimated to hold 26 billion barrels of crude oil.
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