Swiss Company Irks US with Multibillion-dollar Deal with Iran

A00217911.jpgTEHRAN (FNA)- Swiss energy trading company EGL has signed a multibillion dollar contract to buy natural gas from Iran’s national gas producer over the next 25 years, the Swiss company announced Monday.

According to the contract, the National Iranian Gas Export Company will supply about 5.5 billion cubic meters of natural gas to EGL per annum starting from 2009, which will later be sold to European consumers.

The Swiss Foreign Ministry said the deal is worth between 28 billion US dollars and 42 billion dollars. But EGL spokesperson Bogdan Preda said the company would not disclose the concrete figure.

The US government immediately told the Swiss embassy in Washington that the contract is “sending a wrong message” to Iran, as it went against the spirit of the UN sanctions, the Associated Press reported.

But the Swiss government argued that the contract is “totally in line with international laws and UN resolutions.”

Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey said when attending the signing ceremony of the contract that the deal is a major step forward in diversifying power supplies to Europe.

Despite US pressures, different European countries are showing growing interest in increasing trade with Iran.

The US is at loggerheads with Iran over Tehran’s independent and home-grown nuclear technology. Washington has laid much pressure on Iran to make it give up the most sensitive and advanced part of the technology, which is uranium enrichment, a process used for producing nuclear fuel for power plants.

Washington’s push for additional UN penalties contradicted the recent report by 16 US intelligence bodies that endorsed the civilian nature of Iran’s programs. Following the US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) and similar reports by the IAEA head – one in November and the other one on Friday – which praised Iran’s truthfulness about key aspects of its past nuclear activities and announced settlement of outstanding issues with Tehran, any effort to impose further sanctions on Iran seemed to be completely irrational.

The February report by the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, praised Iran’s cooperation in clearing up all of the past questions over its nuclear program, vindicating Iran’s nuclear program and leaving no justification for any new UN sanctions.

Tehran says it never worked on atomic weapons and wants to enrich uranium merely for civilian purposes, including generation of electricity, a claim substantiated by the NIE and IAEA reports.

Iran has insisted it would continue enriching uranium because it needs to provide fuel to a 300-megawatt light-water reactor it is building in the southwestern town of Darkhovin as well as its first nuclear power plant in the southern port city of Bushehr.

Not only many Iranian officials, including President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but also many other world nations have called the UN Security Council pressure unjustified, especially in the wake of recent IAEA reports saying Iran had increased cooperation with the agency.

US President George W. Bush, who finished a tour of the Middle East last month has called on his Arab allies to unite against Iran.

But hosting officials of the regional nations dismissed Bush’s allegations, describing Tehran as a good friend of their countries.

Bush’s attempt to rally international pressure against Iran has lost steam due to the growing international vigilance, specially following the latest IAEA and US intelligence reports.

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