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. US finance pressure hits Iranian gas projects
TEHRAN, Dec 27 (AFP) Dec 27, 2006
US pressure on commercial banks not to lend to Iran has caused problems for several key gas projects, forcing the Islamic republic to dip into a reserve fund, a newspaper said on Wednesday.

"Unfortunately, most of the foreign banks think politically instead of commercially and thus they impose some restrictions (on us)," the managing director of the Pars Oil and Gas Company, Akbar Torkan, was quoted as saying by the Sarmayeh newspaper.

"According to a presidential order, we have allocated four billion dollars from the Oil Stabilisation Fund (OSF) for those projects that have faced financial problems," Torkan said.

The OSF saves the budget-calculated surplus of oil revenues for purposes including financing energy projects.

Torkan said that one problem involved the financing of four multi-billion-dollar gas development projects in Iran's giant offshore South Pars gas field.

"Agreements concluded for financing phases 17 and 18 of South Pars with a foreign bank have not yet been implemented and there was a disruption in phases nine and 10 that had stopped their financing procedure."

The restrictions come amid mounting pressure from the United States on banks to stop lending to Iran, which Washington alleges finances terrorist groups and is seeking a nuclear weapon. Iran denies the allegations.

"The restrictions are unfair and we have only two options, either to give up or apply substitute strategies for the current sanctions," said Torkan, whose state firm is responsible for the giant Pars fields.

Iran's Oil Minister Kazem Vaziri Hamaneh on Tuesday also lamented that the development of Iran's oil industry was suffering from US pressure on lending institutions.

The UN Security Council on Saturday adopted its first ever sanctions against Iran but the United States wants the international community to take more action against Iran.

US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns said last week that "Credit Suisse, Credit Lyonnais and HSBC have all stopped lending to Iran in the last few months."

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