Iran sanctions likely to force BP to shut gas field: EU

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European Union sanctions over Iran's nuclear programme will likely force the closure of a gas field off Scotland jointly owned by British group BP and Tehran, an EU spokesman said Tuesday.

EU foreign ministers gave the final stamp of approval Monday to tough sanctions targetting Iran's vital energy sector in order to bring the Islamic republic back to the negotiating table over its uranium enrichment activities.

"The UK authorities have informed the (European) Commission that the Iranian sanctions legislation is likely to cause the closure of this field," the EU spokesman said.

"This is an intended effect of the legislation and it shows that the UK authorities are ready to take the difficult decisions that are necessary to make the sanctions effective," he said.

"The commission will, of course, assist in any way possible an effective and orderly closure," the spokesman added.

The Rhum field lies some 250 miles (400 kilometres) off Scotland's northeast coast.

A BP spokesman told AFP earlier that the sanctions would have an "impact" on the Rhum field.

"We're waiting to see what the EU regulation says on this matter. As yet, as I understand, it hasn't been published," the BP spokesman said.

"We are aware that the regulations being considered could have an impact on Rhum. Until we've had time to analyse them we don't know what that impact will be."

The Times newspaper reported that BP was poised to close the Rhum field because of the sanctions which would ban joint investments with Iran.

Senior managers were in talks about the future of the venture after a European foreign ministers meeting Monday, the Times added.

A British Foreign Office spokesman told The Times: "It is for individual companies to determine how to adapt their activities to ensure compliance. We have discussed the implications of the regulation with BP."

The West accuses Tehran of seeking to build an atomic bomb under the guise of a civilian nuclear energy programme, a charge Iran vehemently denies.

Iran began fuelling the reactor core of its Russian-built Bushehr nuclear power plant on Tuesday, a facility Tehran says it needs to meet a growing demand for electricity.

At the same time, the Iranian foreign ministry said the content, date and venue for resuming nuclear talks with six world powers -- the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany -- have yet to be finalised.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who represents the world powers in long-stalled talks with Iran, asked Tehran last Friday to reply within the next few days to her proposal to resume negotiations.

In a letter to Iranian officials, Ashton's office repeated an offer to hold the meeting in or near Vienna from November 15 to 17.

© 2010 AFP

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