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US unaware about Iran visit by oil team

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The US says it cannot confirm a report an American oil delegation will visit Tehran soon.

The US State Department says it cannot confirm a report that an American oil delegation plans to visit Tehran within the next few days to discuss business. 

State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke told reporters at a daily press briefing that it is difficult to verify the report since “not a single individual or company is identified" in it.

Rathke was reacting to an announcement by Abbas Shari Moqaddam, Iran’s deputy petroleum minister, that a US oil delegation is scheduled to travel to Tehran this week “to hold talks with a number of Iranian petroleum ministry officials as well as oil industry contractors.”  

Rathke said he wouldn’t “speculate about a visit” which “has not even been confirmed and the nature of which is completely obscure right now."  

“It’s hard to verify whether these reports are accurate at all,” he said, “but also we’ve been quite clear that we don’t consider Iran to be open for business yet, and that if there is any sanctionable activity happening, then we will take action.”

Sheri Moqadam, who heads Iran's National Petrochemical Company (NPC), had been quoted by the country’s Mehr News Agency as saying that “oil dealers and investors from the US are scheduled to have a business tour of Iranian oil industry and meet with Iranian authorities."  

In response to a question about legal restrictions for American companies in Iran, he had explained that to invest in Iran, companies are required to “register an Iranian company and as a result there is no boundary for foreigners to invest in Iran."   

“It is predicted that following the visit by the American delegation to Tehran and possible removal of sanctions against the oil industry, we will witness the presence of major international US oil and gas companies in Iran in future,” Sheri Moqadam added.

Washington has imposed a series of draconian sanctions on Iran that prevent American firms from trading with Iran and investing in its oil sector projects.   

Some of the sanctions are expected to be removed if Iran and the P5+1 reach a final agreement over the country’s nuclear energy activities.  The agreement has a deadline of June 30th and its fate is still not clear. However, global traders are already looking into the prospects of investing in the Iranian market.  

Tehran has been hosting major trade delegations from Europe and Asia over the past few weeks. A surprise visit by an American trade team made headlines in Tehran last month in what many believed was a sign that the taboo over the presence of US companies in the country was already breaking. 

The delegation was comprised of 22 US entrepreneurs, investors and consultants who were reportedly visiting the country to study post-sanctions investment potentials. 

Sheri Moqadam, in another report by Shana news agency affiliated with the Ministry of Petroleum, has been quoted as referring to the visit by the same American trade team in Tehran. This, he said, could be the start of the presence of companies from the US in Iran's 20th International Oil, Gas, Refining and Petrochemical Exhibition – the Oil Show

“The presence of expert and experienced staff at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have given us the confidence to be optimistic about the participation of foreign companies in this year’s Oil Show,” the official has told Shana.

The Show will open in Tehran on May 6 and will continue until May 9. Iranian officials have already told the media that a large number of national and international companies operating in various areas down the oil chain will participate in this year’s exhibition.      


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