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Iran says studying Japan`s request to extend deadline on Azadegan oil field

Iran said on Wednesday it is studying a request by Japan to extend a deadline to bid for the development of its giant oil field of Azadegan, IRNA reported from Tehran.

Mehdi Mir-Moezzi, the managing director of the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC), told IRNA that the NIOC is studying the request that has been forwarded by a Japanese consortium which was initially commissioned to develop Azadegan project.

Mir-Moezzi also recalled reports that a partner of the consortium has withdrawn from the deal, adding that no definite conclusion has yet been announced in that connection.

Iran had given preferential negotiation rights to the consortium during President Mohammad Khatami`s visit to Japan in 2000 to develop the Azadegan project -- Iran`s biggest oil field.

The consortium that comprises such Japanese enterprises as Tomen Co, Inpex Corp and Japan Petroleum Exploration Company (JAPEX) had until the end of June to sign a deal with Iran over the project. However, it has so far failed to do so in what analysts say is the result of US pressure on Tokyo to cancel the deal which is estimated to be worth 2.8 billion dollars.

Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh in September said that Iran has cancelled Japan`s preferential rights over Azadegan project after the deadline for the consortium was over.

This was followed by later announcements that Iran would hold a limited tender for the development of the field.

Still, there had been frequent remarks from both sides that they would continue debates over the project.

Kyodo news agency last Sunday reported that Iran has sent an official letter to the consortium that it had set December 15, as a deadline for the Japanese consortium to announce whether they would participate in an international tender over the project.

Accordingly, Japan`s Asahi Shimbun daily reported on Sunday that Tomen has decided to withdraw from the Azadegan development project.

The announcement came on the heels of Friday reports from Tokyo that differences between Iran and Japan over the project remained wide and that mutual talks might end in failure, unless the Iranian government makes a concession.

This, however, raised no eyebrows in Tehran and even backfired on Monday with government spokesman Abdollah Ramezanzadeh stressing that Iran is also looking for certain concessions regarding the development of the field.

Ramezanzadeh also said that Iran will lose nothing if Japan pulls out of the lucrative deal, and that the Islamic Republic does not place too much emphasis on Japanese corporations undertaking the development of Azadegan project.

... Payvand News - 12/17/03 ... --

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