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Trade war

China's CNPC in pursuit of Total gas stake in Iran

Tehran media offers conflicting reports about status of handover

A Chinese national flag flutters between CNPC flags at the state-owned company's headquarters in Beijing.   © Reuters

DUBAI (Reuters) -- A gas field development contract with France's Total, and China's state-owned CNPC remains unchanged, a senior Iranian oil official said according to the oil ministry news agency SHANA on Saturday -- hours after state new agency IRNA quoted him as saying CNPC had taken Total's share in the project.

"The role of the members of the consortium developing this project is in accordance with the provisions of the contract, and there is still no formal change in these provisions," Mohammad Mostafavi, director of investment at Iran's state oil company NIOC, was quoted as saying.

IRNA earlier quoted Mostafavi as saying CNPC had taken over Total's share in Iran's multibillion dollar South Pars gas project. There was no explanation for the apparent discrepancy.

Total signed a contract in 2017 to develop Phase 11 of South Pars field with an initial investment of $1 billion, marking the first major Western energy investment in the country after sanctions were lifted in 2016. South Pars has the world's biggest natural gas reserves ever found in one place.

But the French company had said it would pull out unless it secured a U.S. sanctions waiver, and Gholamreza Manouchehri, deputy head of NIOC, said in June that if Total were to walk away, then CNPC would take over.

A spokeswoman for Total declined to comment.

Total has not said what it would do with its 50.1 percent stake should it pull out, and it has until Nov. 4 to wind down its Iran operations.

The renewed U.S. sanctions were among those lifted under a 2015 deal between world powers and Tehran on curbing Iran's nuclear program. U.S. President Donald Trump abandoned the deal in May. Washington is planning to impose heavier sanctions in November aimed at Iran's oil sector.

There was no immediate comment on the IRNA report by CNPC, which held a 30 percent stake in the project. The remainder is held by Iran's Petropars.

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