Eni's CEO first to meet with Iran oil minister

Thu Dec 5, 2013 10:24am EST
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By Alex Lawler

VIENNA (Reuters) - Paolo Scaroni of Italy's Eni (ENI.MI: Quote) met with Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh on Thursday, the first western oil CEO to meet publicly with the minister since last month's interim nuclear deal.

The meeting, in the minister's Vienna hotel suite following Wednesday's OPEC meeting, came after Zanganeh named Eni as one of seven Western companies he wanted to invest in Iran's energy sector if international sanctions are lifted.

The talks also covered debts Eni is owed by Iran for previous investment and future terms for foreign companies to help revive Iran's oil and gas industry, Scaroni told reporters after the meeting.

"We had a fairly long and very warm meeting with the minister, who is a person we know very well," he said. Zanganeh was reappointed oil minister after an 8-year break by new reformist President Hassan Rouhani.

"We have been discussing potential new activities of Eni in Iran - of course all this is subject to lifting of the sanctions," Scaroni said. "This is the key issue."

He said new investment would probably involve both oil and gas projects.

Iranian oil production has fallen more than a million barrels a day since oil trade, shipping insurance and banking sanctions were imposed last year to pressure it to stop nuclear enrichment.

Tehran reached an interim six month agreement last month with six world powers to downgrade enrichment and other parts of its nuclear program.   Continued...

Paolo Scaroni, chief executive officer of Italian energy company ENI, speaks with Tunisian Prime Minister Ali Larayedh (not pictured) in Tunis April 19, 2013. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi