Japan shelves $2-billion oil deal with Iran as US pressure mounts
American pressure has reportedly compelled Japan to suspend a two billion dollar investment in the Azadegan oilfield, considered Iran’s largest, with reserves of over 26 billion barrels of oil. "Suspicion about Iran's nuclear development is not an issue affecting only our country," stated Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda. "We can't sign the crude oil accord ignoring it."
US State Department has repeatedly voiced concerns over Iran's nuclear program and its alleged role in sponsoring terrorism. These concerns have translated into opposition to the long-negotiated deal, which was supposed to be signed Monday, July 1, between Tehran and a Japanese consortium made up of two affiliates of the state-owned Japan National Oil Corporation and energy trader Tomen Corporation.
“This would be a particularly unfortunate time to go forward with major new oil and gas deals,” stated a US State Department spokesperson, “given recent revelations about Iran's nuclear programs, and efforts made through the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to deal with the threat Iran poses.”
Tokyo obtained priority-bidding rights to develop the Azadegan field in late 2000. Negotiations over Japan’s involvement in its exploration were carried out over the past two years. Looking to conclude a 20-year contract to produce 300,000 barrels of oil per day (bopd), Japan so far agreed to contribute $10 million toward the financing of the field’s seismic study.
Japan, the world's second largest economy, depends on imports to supply over 80 percent of its energy needs. It relies on the Middle East for over 85 percent of its $50 billion annual oil imports. Iran is already Japan's third-largest supplier of crude. As a key US ally, Japan backed the Bush Administration’s war on Iraq.
IAEA head Mohamed Al-Baradei issued a report in June accusing Iran of violating the nuclear nonproliferation treaty, by using 1.9 kilograms of uranium hexafluoride (UF6) gas, previously imported from China, to test four centrifuges at its secret facility, named Kalaye Electric, in preparation for the establishment of a larger centrifuge pilot plant at Natanz. — (menareport.com)
© 2003 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)