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France's Total will quit Iran gas project if no sanctions waiver
17 May 2018, 09:48 | Kelvin Horton
EU moves to block US sanctions on Iran
French oil major Total has halted plans to help develop Iran's giant South Pars gas field as it seeks to clarify whether the investment can avoid falling foul of returning USA sanctions on Tehran, the oil company said Wednesday.
Total said it could not afford to breach the looming USA sanctions against Iran due to its reliance on American banks and shareholders.
In an ironic twist, Trump's decision to threaten European companies that continue to invest in Iran may open the door to Chinese rivals.
The project waiver should include protection of the Company from any secondary sanction as per USA legislation, it added.
Gas Market Report is the leading news source on the gas industry markets, delivering vital first-of-the-month gas prices for more than 40 pipeline locations and a number of key market centers.
The administration of President Donald Trump is phasing back in sanctions after his withdrawal last week from the Iran nuclear deal. "They have us by the throat because so much business is conducted and cleared in dollars", one European investment banker said.
Total said the South Pars project puts at risk the company's large operations in the United States and reliance on USA banks for financing of 90 percent of its operations. The U.S. Treasury has given companies up to 180 days to end dealings with Iran.
SP11 is the biggest proposed project between an worldwide oil company and Iran and if Total withdraws, it will likely deal a significant blow to Tehran.
Total's announcement comes after German insurer Allianz and Danish oil product tanker operator Maersk Tankers said they were winding down their businesses in Iran.
The 28 European Union leaders meeting in Sofia said they did not make any quick decisions on how to try to shield their businesses so they can keep operating in Iran.
Total's position shows how hard it will be for European powers to safeguard their interests inIran and offer guarantees to save the nuclear deal.
But their efforts are undermined by the global reach of the US financial system, the dominance of the USA dollar, and the value to most European companies of the vital markets they have cultivated in the United States.
They also want to persuade Tehran the 2015 deal - which lifted earlier sanctions on the Islamic Republic in exchange for it curbing its nuclear ambitions - is worth sticking to.
But Mogherini said the European Union would make every effort to maintain business ties with Tehran and ensure that Tehran can continue to sell its oil around the world.
"It would be suicide to do any new business or funding for Iran or Iran-related companies without explicit guarantees from the U.S. government".
Iranian oil minister Bijan Zanganeh said the French firm would not pay a penalty if it pulled out of the project.
"The current situation will pass and Iran will emerge as a victor", the oil ministry's news agency SHANA quoted Zanganeh as saying.
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