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Total halts oil products trade with Iran

Marrakesh, October 17, 2010

French oil major Total has halted all its trade in oil products with Iran in compliance with a European embargo, Total chief executive Christophe de Margerie said in an interview.

Total was one of several European oil companies that had been resisting pressure from the United States to stop doing business with Iran, part of Washington's drive to isolate Tehran over its nuclear programme.

De Margerie told Reuters that his company was now respecting the embargo, though he indicated that it had not taken this decision in response to US pressure.

"It's very simple. There is an embargo which has been voted on and has been transposed into European and French law," he said on Saturday on the sidelines of the World Policy Conference in the Moroccan city of Marrakesh.

"We await the implementing laws, but there you are, we will respect the embargo. The embargo is no more products sold, no more products bought, and we have already done it, we've already stopped," he said.

Asked how long ago Total had stopped trading with Iran, de Margerie said: "Since the decision was voted on. We have not waited for the implementing decrees. So it's over. It's because it's the European law, I want to be clear on that."

The United States and some other states suspect Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons under the cover of a civilian nuclear atomic energy programme. Tehran denies that, saying it is enriching uranium purely for electricity.

Tightening noose
Many international companies operating in a wide range of industries have stopped doing business with the Iran since the UN Security Council toughened sanctions in June.

The US Congress has followed up with additional measures penalising Iran's energy and banking sector and has gone after foreign companies that do business with Tehran.

But some European oil majors have balked at US pressure to stop trading with Iran.

Two weeks ago, Statoil said it was providing Iran with technical assistance and ENI said it would exit Iran only when existing deals expire.

The Islamic Republic continues to resist pressure to open wide-ranging talks with six world powers who have offered trade and diplomatic benefits if Tehran suspends enrichment.

Iran sits on the world's second largest natural gas reserves after Russia and has one of the largest proven reserves of oil.

Separately, the Total CEO also said he was confident a stalled deal to acquire a stake in two oil blocks in Uganda from Tullow Oil would still go ahead.

Tullow bought a half share in the blocks from former partner Heritage Oil with a view to selling down part of the interests to Total and China's CNOOC.

But the Ugandan government declined to approve the transaction following a tax dispute with Heritage.

"It is delayed. That is sure. It is annoying because there is a lot of work to do. ... But I really do not think that can call into question the entry of the Chinese and us at Total (into the concessions)," de Margerie said. – Reuters




Tags: Oil | Iran | Total | Trade | Marrakech |

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