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12/01/09

Iran crude exports may stop if embargo continues

TEHRAN, Dec. 1 (Mehr News Agency) - Oil Minister Masoud Mirkazemi warned the world powers Iran may stop exporting crude oil if they continue economic sanctions on the country.

"Iran is one of the world''s major oil producers and any cut in Iran''s supply of crude will, undoubtedly, cause prices to surge," Mirkazemi stated in a press conference in Tehran on Tuesday.

Iran is aiming for annual investment of at least $35 billion in its upstream oil and gas sectors over the next five years from foreign and domestic sources, the Mehr news agency quoted Mirkazemi as saying.

"For the next five-year socio-economic development plan (2010-2015), the target is at least $35 billion per year, both in foreign and local investment, for the upstream section of the oil and gas industry," he said.

In the past four years, the sector had attracted about $10 billion in foreign investment each year, he said, describing this figure as "very high", in part due to the high oil price.

As the world''s fifth-largest crude exporter, Iran needs to attract foreign capital and know-how to help develop its vast energy resources.

Western firms are increasingly wary of investing in Iran due to the standoff over Tehran''s nuclear program. But Iran is still drawing interest from Indian, Chinese and other Asian firms, seen as less susceptible to international pressures.

OPEC not expected to hike output

Iran does not expect the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to take any decision to hike crude output at the upcoming meeting later this month.

"Given the circumstances, there will not be an output increase and OPEC will not permit members to do it," Mirkazemi stated.

"These days the market situation is not right to raise output. This is my forecast," he said.

The minister also urged members of OPEC, which is to meet on Dec. 22 in Luanda, to work to stabilize oil prices. "We should exert effort to reach price stability in the market."

OPEC president Jose Maria Botelho de Vasconcelos of Angola said in November that a price of between $75 and $80 a barrel would be satisfactory. It currently stands at around $77.

Some OPEC members, including Venezuela, are expected to announce they want to maintain current production levels, which have been set since January at 24.84 million barrels per day for the OPEC-12 cartel.

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