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Irancell replaces Turkcell with South African MTN


Tehran, Sept 11, IRNA-Turkish telecom giant Turkcell has lost all chances and Irancell Consortium will give the priority to South Africa's Mobile Telephone Network (MTN) by signing the 300 million euro second mobile telephone operator deal in order not to loose the lucrative market, said an Iranian official in Tehran on Sunday.

"MTN will be absolutely given the priority but we can also talk with other interested parties for the credit and financial aspects of the deal. Turkcell has missed all its opportunities," a Defense inistry official said.

The chairman of the Board of Directors of Irancell and head of the Electronic Industries Department of the Defence Ministry Ebrahim Mahmoudzadeh, told a press conference that Irancell can sign the deal with other alternative firms, including MTN, in a week in quest for better terms.

Mahmoudzadeh said the Iranian partners decided to turn to other foreign partners due to Turkcell's failure to fulfill obligations during the deadlines and also because of the company's internal and external problems, which dragged the Ankara government into the issue.

He said Iran has sought other partners in order not to lose the lucrative market following the entry of Telia Co.

"Since we are losing the market, especially with the entry of Telia, that poses great threat to the Iranian and foreign partners we have decided not to lose another day in the project," he added.

He went on to say that the Iranian partners of the Irancell consortium started negotiations with South African MTN as of today and in their opinion relationship with Turkcell is dead.

He said Irancell obtained the permission from the political and economic officials of the state to cut off ties with Turkcell and all costs associated with reestablishment of the relations should be borne by those taking a decision in this respect.

Mahmoudzadeh accused Turkcell of "failing to deposit money and give the necessary guarantees" for the project to go ahead.

Meanwhile, Turkcell's Iran envoy Bahram Hassanzadeh said the Turkish company had acted according to its obligations and based on Iran's laws and Irancell's regulations.

Hassanzadeh told IRNA that any decision on the presence or absence of Turkcell in the deal rests with the Iranian government and the Ministry of Telecommunications and Information Technology.

The news comes just a week after it was announced that Turkcell and its Iranian partners had signed a final agreement and had brought an end to months of wrangling over the deal.

Turkcell was initially awarded the contract in February 2004 in a landmark deal to provide a mobile phone service to some 11 million users over the next three years, subject to the payment of a 300-million-euro license fee.

But the agreement suffered a serious setback last year when Iran's parliament objected to giving a foreign firm a majority stake in the venture.

The Turkish firm's stake was then cut from 70 to 49 percent, a move deputies said was necessary to protect Iran's national security because otherwise the network could be subject to espionage.

At one point Turkcell reportedly threatened to pull out altogether, and last month demanded more guarantees that its stake would be protected.

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