EU slams Trump as Iran prepares for new oil customers

EU slams Trump as Iran prepares for new oil customers
Tehran has announced that it will replace France's Total with a Chinese oil company, should withdraw from Iran deal as the EU lashes out at Trump for being 'selfish'.
3 min read
Tehran is seeking alternative customers in case European states pull out of Iran [Getty]
Iran's oil minister announced that Chinese state-owned oil company CNPC will replace Total on a major gas field project in Iran if the French energy giant pulls out over renewed US sanctions against Tehran.

"Total has said that if it doesn't get an exemption from the United States to continue its work, it will begin to pull out of the deal," Bijan Namdar Zanganeh was quoted as saying by his ministry's Shana news service. 

"If that happens, the Chinese firm CNPC will replace Total."

Total started the $4.8-billion South Pars 11 project in July 2017, two years after Western powers signed a nuclear deal with Tehran prompting the return of many foreign businesses to Iran.

But earlier this month, US President Donald Trump announced his withdrawal from the deal, and warned companies that they could face sanctions if they do business with Iran.

The French energy giant said on Wednesday it has $10 billion of capital employed in its US assets.

US banks are involved in 90 percent of its financing operations, making Total highly vulnerable if targeted by any of Washington's actions.

Total said it had spent less than 40 million euros ($47 million) on the Iranian project, which it runs with its partner Petrochina and which is dedicated to the supply of domestic gas inside Iran.

Zanganeh said on Wednesday that were CNPC, which was part of the Total deal, unable to carry out the work in South Pars due to US sanctions it would fall to Iran's Petropars.

Meanwhile, Tehran has signed an agreement with a UK consortium to develop an oil field in the country's south.

The agreement is the first between Iran and a key Western ally of the United States since Washington withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal.

Managing Director of Pergas International Consortium Colin Rowley, and Bijan Alipour, managing director of National Iranian South Oil Co., signed a preliminary deed on the partnership in the presence of British Ambassador Rob Macaire in Tehran on Wednesday night.

The project, if the agreement turns into a contract, will require more than $1 billion to produce 200,000 barrels of crude oil per day during the next decade in the 55-year old Karanj oil filed.

The EU lashes out

Trump's decision to withdraw from the Iran deal has caused anger across Europe. He has been branded as selfish and capricious, along with claims that he is handing political leverage to Russia and China over Iran.

European Union Council President Donald Tusk said, given Trump's recent decisions, "Someone could even think 'with friends like that, who needs enemies?'"

Trump has bewildered the Europeans by threatening to slap tariffs on EU steel and aluminum exports and reneging on an agreement to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons, which the EU believes is vital to world security.

He has also broken with a key international principle of Middle East peace efforts by moving the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.

Tusk's remarks - made before he chaired a meeting in Bulgaria of the 28 leaders whose countries make up the world's biggest trading bloc - underscored the widening gulf in EU-US relations.

Listing Europe's traditional challenges, ranging from the expanding power of China to the belligerence of Russia, Tusk said.

"We are witnessing today a new phenomenon, the capricious assertiveness of the American administration."

"Frankly speaking, Europe should be grateful to President Trump because thanks to him we have got rid of all illusions. He has made us realise that if you need a helping hand, you will find one at the end of your arm," Tusk said.

Iran possesses the second-largest gas reserves on the planet, after Russia, and the fourth largest oil supplies.