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Iran's Parliament commission OKs forming committee to probe Statoil scandal

Majlis Energy Commission on Sunday approved the formation of a committee to probe into the alleged involvement of an Iranian firm in the bribing controversy linked to Norway's Statoil company, IRNA reported from Tehran.

A lawmaker, Shamseddin Vahabi, who had requested the commission to launch the probe, told IRNA that reports that Norway has forwarded to Iran on the issue are ambiguous in several cases, stressing that a special committee must be formed to clarify those cases.

Statoil officials are said to have used a dlrs 15,000-million deal to bribe influential figures in the Iranian Oil Ministry to win energy contracts.

The scandal led to the resignation of former chief executive officer of Statoil after police raided its offices as charges of the company's involvement in paying kickbacks were made public.

Vahabi said the large volume of financial figures and project details of Statoil require that a centralized committee with enough legal and expert credentials probe the issue.

He said the required data to remove the ambiguities involved could not be provided merely through correspondence, indicating that Iran needed to take more practical steps in that connection.

Iran has so far been seriously following up the issue by sending two fact-finding delegations to Norway and Britain to shed light on the case, but the efforts have hardly led to any breakthrough in the case.

Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh last October lashed out at the Norwegian officials for refusing to disclose crucial evidences demanded by Iran over the case.

Zanganeh also stressed that his ministry has not yet come across any evidence relating to the alleged financial corruption in its cooperation with Statoil.

His remarks follows MPs' threats that they would summon him to the chamber to explain about the issue, and that he would be impeached if the alleged bribery to the Iranian company is proved.

Furthermore, the press last November quoted an Oil Ministry official as saying that the ministry would file a complaint against Norway if its police fails to provide the ministry with information about the alleged involvement of the Iranian company in Statoil scandal.

The ratification of Majlis Energy Commission will be raised at the chamber to be endorsed by the MPs.

... Payvand News - 3/7/04 ... --

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