TEHRAN (AFP) – Iran and Japanese firm Inpex are pressing on with negotiations to finalise a two billion dollar deal to develop the Islamic republic’s largest onshore oil field despite missed deadlines and mutual recriminations, media has reported.
“Final negotiations to develop the Azadegan oil field are continuing,” said the Shana agency, which is affiliated to the oil ministry.
“These negotiations between National Iranian Oil Company officials and representatives of Inpex started on Saturday, the final day of the deadline set to take a definitive decision on Azadegan,” it added.
Oil Minister Kazem Vaziri Hamaneh said at the weekend Iran would announce its decision on whether to go ahead with the project with a Japanese partner in the next days amid mounting complaints from Tehran over delays to the start-up.
The head of the Iranian parliament’s energy commission, Kamal Daneshyar, also claimed Saturday Tehran would cancel the contract and carry on with the project with an Iranian contractor.
Japan’s new Trade and Industry Minister Akira Amari has warned against hoping for any immediate breakthrough but also said Iran is in a “situation where it cannot throw out the deal so easily.”
The contract was signed in 2004 by Inpex Corp., a Japanese oil exploration company that is supported by the government but also has private stakeholders.
Iran and Inpex had set the final deadline on September 15 but failed to reach an agreement over profit-sharing, instead setting a new deadline of the end of last month. Work was meant to start on the oil field by March 2005.
Japanese media have also reported Tokyo is reconsidering the project after pressure from its key ally the United States, which believes Tokyo should not be cutting deals with Iran at a time of controversy over its nuclear programme.
The deal, signed in February 2004, targets production of 260,000 bpd of oil from the southwestern field of Azadegan, which has an estimated 26 billion barrels of oil in place.