Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 183

President Boris Yeltsin yesterday joined with Gazprom, the Russian gas monopoly, in dismissing objections from Washington over a $2 billion gas deal between the Iran National Oil Company and an international group led by the French oil-and-gas company Total. Gazprom has a 30 percent stake in the project, which was finalized on September 28. Under the agreement, Total, Gazprom, and Malaysia’s Petronas will tap Iran’s massive South Pars gas field, believed to hold as much as 500 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

In remarks to reporters Yeltsin accused the U.S. of interference and said that France and Russia, as independent countries, are free to sign any such contracts they want. Washington objects to the deal on the grounds that it undermines U.S. efforts to isolate Iran over its role as a sponsor of international terrorism. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy in Moscow said yesterday that embassy officials had met with Gazprom officials to complain about the gas deal, but she provided no details. Moscow’s stance has paralleled that of France, which on September 29 made clear that it would follow through on the deal despite a U.S. law that stipulates the levying of sanctions against any country, regardless of nationality, that does more than $20 million worth of business with Iran or Libya. (The Washington Post, September 30; Russian agencies, Reuter, October 1)

This is hardly the first time that Moscow and Washington have been at loggerheads over Russia’s dealings with Iran. Washington has repeatedly objected, without effect, to a deal whereby Russia is completing construction of Iran’s Bushehr nuclear power plant. The U.S. has also joined with Israel in accusing Russian specialists — with or without the knowledge of the Kremlin — of participating in an Iranian effort to develop ballistic missiles. Russia has denied those charges, but Israeli authorities on September 30 leveled them anew, and provided what they claimed were no details of Russian complicity in the Iranian project. (AP, September 30)

Sergeev Meets with NATO Colleagues.