Iran said Monday that the oil reserves in its part of the Caspian Sea amount to between 2.5 and three billion barrels, state radio reported.
"Preliminary studies of the Caspian Sea reveal that some 2.5 to 3 billion barrels belong to Iran," said Mehdi Mir-Moezi, the deputy head of the National Iranian Oil Company, cited by the radio.
He said seismological studies confirm the existence of substantial hydrocarbon resources in the Iranian part of the Caspian, the world's largest inland sea.
Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi said earlier this month that Iran would accept a 20 percent share in the wealth of the Caspian "if the other countries agree."
The division of the sea's waters has never been formally clarified.
Since the break up of the Soviet Union, a bitter rivalry has sprung up between the seaside states -- Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan along with Russia and Iran -- for control of the Caspian.
Tehran has in the past particularly singled out Azerbaijan, which has secured major energy contracts with US firms since the collapse of the former Soviet Union, of being too close too both Washington and Israel.
Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in late July said that although Iran had no expansionist aspirations, it would forcefully defend all of its borders, notably in the Caspian region.
But President Mohammad Khatami said in June that his country was ready to share the sea's resources "equitably." – (AFP)
© Agence France Presse 2000
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )