Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh has said US companies would face no restriction if they chose to participate in the development of Iranian oil fields, IRNA reported.
"I have already said we have no problem," press Saturday quoted him as saying, when asked to comment on the speculation about the participation of American firms in the development of a massive oil field, which Tehran signed recently with Japan.
The deal, worth two billion dollars, followed a lengthy course of negotiations between Iranian and Japanese sides, and were dogged by fierce US opposition.
"Not only in the Azadegan field in the form of cooperation with Japan, but any tender which American companies opt to participate, no problem will be created for them on our part," Zanganeh said.
The United States has banned American firms from engaging in any Iranian development work under the Iran and Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA), which was adopted during the tenure of former President Bill Clinton.
A senior Iranian official was recently quoted as saying that the Japanese were very interested in involving the Americans in Azadegan, whose in place reserves are estimated at 26 billion barrels.
The Japanese reportedly wanted to know whether Iran would accept US investment and whether it was willing to release part of its holding in the scheme.
While Iran has often said it would welcome US investment, Washington's unilateral sanctions have blocked US companies since the mid-1990s.
Washington had pressed Japan to back off from investing in Iran, but the pressure failed to dampen Tokyo's enthusiasm in Azadegan, and the deal was finally signed with Japan's Inpex Corporation last month. The field is expected to become fully operational by early 2012 with 260,000 barrels per day of recovery.
Japan hopes the field would be a key source of energy for the country which is now looks at Iran as the third supplier of its oil demands.
Iran had given preferential negotiation rights to the consortium during President Mohammad Khatami's visit to Japan in 2000 to develop the Azadegan field, but they were cancelled after Tokyo failed to observe several deadlines.
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