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18

Iran Eyes Oil Deal With China

Tehran expects to sign major energy export deals with a delegation from Beijing

Tehran expects to sign major energy export deals with a delegation from Beijing "soon", an official said yesterday, a move that may seal China's support for Iran's nuclear programme at the UN Security Council.

"A delegation led by the Chinese head of the national development and reform commission, Ma Kai, will be soon in Tehran to sign agreements related to exports of big oil consignments to China," deputy foreign minister Mehdi Safari was quoted as saying by state television yesterday.

The International Atomic Energy Agency earlier this month reported Iran to the UN over its controversial nuclear programme, a move which may lead to a sanctions resolution being drawn up by the Security Council, where China has the right of veto.

Iran has restarted small-scale enrichment of uranium despite international efforts to stop it. The West suspects Iran is trying to develop a nuclear bomb, something Tehran denies. The UN Security Council is expected to debate the issue in March.

In October 2004, Iran and China signed a memorandum of understanding for exports of 250 million tons of liquefied national gas (LNG) over 25 years. That arrangement could be worth more than $100 billion. It also envisages a share in the development of an Iranian onshore oilfield, Yadavaran. The preliminary agreement expired in January and neither of the sides have indicated how the negotiations would continue.