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Iran seeks private Indian partner

NEW DELHI: Iran is looking for a private Indian partner to sell liquefied natural gas, even as a government-to-government LNG deal, agreed to in 2005, for an annual supply of five million tonnes of LNG, remains to be implemented.

A.N.S. Khamoushi, president of the Iran Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Mines, told The Hindu during a recent visit that he was scouting for a suitable Indian player to "cooperate with us" in the LNG business.

Mr. Khamoushi stated that he met Petroleum Minister Murli Deora and officials from the Indian Oil Corporation (IOC).

According to him, the Iran Investment Company, a holding company, had been formed and it was looking for partners not only in the oil and gas sector but also in steel, power and aluminium production.

He also met representatives of the National Aluminium Company (NALCO), National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC), Tata Steel and the Hinduja Group.

`Deep change'

Pointing out that Iran was going through a process of "deep change", Mr. Khamoushi claimed that the private sector could now invest in "state-controlled and monopolised" crude, gas, railways, ports and mines sectors.

The Iran chamber was paving the way for the private sector to set up holding companies. "All the Indian companies we have met are anxious to cooperate with us."

He said the Iranian company had about 10 million tonnes of gas that could be sold annually to an Indian partner.

Iran was also looking at cooperative ventures with Chinese companies, he said.

Mr. Khamoushi said Iran had obtained access to LNG technology, an issue that created problems for Tehran in the past. "We have found the operators," he said, adding these were not American companies.

"We are not worried about that," Mr. Khamoushi said, to a question whether sanctions imposed by the United Nations were forcing Iran to open up the private sector.

However, he admitted that Iran was "turning a face towards you [India]" and the potential for cooperation was immense. "Privatisation is the will of the [Iranian] Government."

Iran was looking for private expertise and partnership in the hotel sector. "We have plans to build 600 hotels throughout Iran to promote tourism."

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