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Shmatko, Iran Discuss Oil Products

Shmatko looking at papers during a meeting Sunday with Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki in Tehran. Morteza Nikoubazl

Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko arrived Sunday in Tehran for two days of talks, including on possible exports of refined oil products to Iran and greater participation for Russian refiners there.

The prospect of Russian oil product supplies to Iran came as the International Atomic Energy Agency rebuked the country Friday for secretly building a uranium-enrichment plant — a project that fueled fears that it was seeking a nuclear bomb.

Russia and China, traditional allies of Iran, gave rare support to the international censure.

Shmatko met on Sunday with Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki and was scheduled to meet Ali Akbar Salehi, head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization. Shmatko and Salehi will visit the delayed Bushehr nuclear power station. He will also meet Iranian Oil Minister Masoud Mir-Kazemi, an Energy Ministry spokesman said.

“We’re going to be discussing downstream projects as well as upstream projects. There’s a project to develop Iran’s petrochemicals industry, and Sibur is very interested,” Shmatko told reporters Friday in Moscow.

Sibur, controlled by Gazprombank, is Russia’s largest petrochemicals company.

“Plans for deliveries of oil products by Russian oil companies will also be discussed,” Shmatko said.

There is a widespread expectation that European countries could approve sanctions, including a halt on fuel exports to Iran. The country imports about 40 percent of its oil products at a cost of between $5 billion and $7 billion annually, depending on prices.

Russia currently does not export oil products to Iran, said Mehdi Ghazanfari, Iran’s commerce minister, who in June listed only iron, steel, wood, electrical equipment, paper, fertilizers and vehicles as imports from Russia.

Spokespeople for Rosneft, LUKoil and TNK-BP said they were unaware of any plans by their companies to begin oil product exports to Iran or whether company executives would accompany Shmatko on the trip.

“Everything depends on the price,” said LUKoil spokesman Dmitry Dolgov, when asked about prospects for such export deals.

Rosneft spokesman Nikolai Manvelov said: “If it’s interesting, we will go for it.”

A call to the Iranian Embassy went unanswered Friday afternoon.

Shmatko said he would also discuss plans by Gazprom and its oil arm, Gazprom Neft, to develop oil and gas fields in Iran, including its Caspian Sea shelf.

Construction of the Bushehr nuclear plant, which Russia has been building, is complete, but work needed to start the facility has been slowed because of IAEA requirements, Shmatko said.

Earlier this month, he said delays to the facility were not political, countering widespread feelings — particularly in Tehran — that the project is being delayed for leverage in other spheres.

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