Four oil companies pull out of Iran: State Dept
The United States said Thursday that energy giants Total of France, Anglo-Dutch Shell, Norway's Statoil and Italy's Eni have pledged to end their investments in Iran.
The pledges fall in line with tough new energy and financial measures the US Congress imposed on Iran in June, which came atop UN Security Council sanctions imposed earlier the same month to curb Iran's nuclear ambitions.
"I am pleased to announce that we have received commitments from four international energy firms to terminate their investments and avoid any new activity in Iran's energy sector," Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg said, calling the move "a significant setback to Iran."
Steinberg said the move makes the companies eligible to avoid US sanctions.
The companies "have provided assurance to us that they have stopped," or taken steps to stop business with Iran, he said.
"However, some international oil companies have not yet committed to any new activities in Iran's petroleum sector. And for this reason the State Department is launching investigations into those companies," he said.
He would not identify these firms or say how many there are.
Two senators urged Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Tuesday to ensure that the administration punish Chinese and Turkish firms reportedly providing Iran with refined petroleum products.
Steinberg also said the State Department decided to impose sanctions on Naftiran Intertrade Company (NICO), a Swiss-based subsidiary of Iran's national oil company, for its involvment in Iran's energy sector.
State Department official Douglas Engel admitted that US firms were already prohibited from most dealings with the firm, but said the move "does send a message" to companies in other countries not to work with NICO.
The latest steps came a day after US President Barack Obama ordered sanctions against eight senior Iranian officials for alleged human rights abuses during the crackdown against those protesting the 2009 elections.
It was the first time Washington had imposed sanctions against Iran based on human rights abuses, Clinton said.
© 2010 AFP