• Kyodo


Iranian Oil Minister Kazem Vaziri-Hamaneh said Friday that Japan has until the end of the month to finalize a $2 billion deal to develop the giant Azadegan oil field, Iran’s Fars News Agency reported.

Iran and Japan reached an agreement several days ago on extending by 15 days the original Sept. 15 deadline, the report quoted Vaziri-Hamaneh as saying.

Japan’s Inpex Corp., which holds the concessions for developing the oil field in southwestern Iran, should finalize the deal by the end of this month, he said.

The Azadegan field is one of the world’s largest, with estimated crude oil reserves of 26 billion barrels.

The National Iranian Oil Co. and the Japanese government-linked Inpex signed a contract for the project in February 2004, but development work has yet to begin.

Inpex has said that is due partly to rising costs of construction materials and a delay by Iran in removing explosive mines left over from its war with Iraq.

Iran apparently suspects Japan is delaying the project in the face of pressure from the United States, which opposes Iran’s nuclear development program and hopes to have international sanctions imposed on Tehran.

In August, Iran warned Japan of the possibility it could seek joint development of the field with Russia or China if an agreement cannot be reached with Japan by mid-September.

Antiterrorism steps

SINGAPORE (Kyodo) Finance Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki and U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson agreed Saturday to consider measures against terrorist financing and money laundering within the framework of the Group of Seven finance ministers’ meetings and other forums, apparently with Iran and North Korea in mind.

“We agreed to discuss at the finance ministers’ level how we will cope with the illicit use of financial institutions, by which I think Mr. Paulson was referring to Iran,” Tanigaki told reporters after their 20-minute meeting in Singapore, alluding to possible multilateral financial sanctions against Iran and North Korea.

The U.S. has been pressing for U.N. sanctions over Iran’s defiance on uranium enrichment. Washington has imposed a ban on U.S. bank transactions with state-run Bank Saderat Iran, insisting that Tehran is channeling funds to Hezbollah in Lebanon through the export bank.

For its part, Japan is planning to launch new financial sanctions against North Korea in line with a U.N. Security Council resolution regarding Pyongyang’s July 5 missile launches.

Tanigaki said he and Paulson also discussed ensuring greater exchange rate flexibility and other economic management issues involving emerging-market economies, including China’s currency reform, as part of efforts to address global imbalances.

During their first talks since Paulson assumed his post July 10, Tanigaki told him it is in China’s interest to further loosen its grip on its currency, according to a Finance Ministry official who briefed reporters about the meeting.

Paulson said it is important to ensure greater exchange rate flexibility among member economies of the International Monetary Fund through its economic surveillance, effectively urging China to let market forces determine the value of the yuan.

Banks follow U.S. line

The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, Mizuho Corporate Bank and Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp. will refrain from doing business with Bank Saderat Iran in line with U.S. financial sanctions, officials at the three banks said Saturday.

The United States has imposed a ban on U.S. bank transactions with the Iranian bank, charging that Tehran is using it to funnel money to Hezbollah in Lebanon.

The three Japanese banks have branches in the United States and decided to suspend transactions with Bank Saderat Iran in line with the U.S. sanctions, the officials said.

Other Japanese banks operating in the U.S. are expected to follow suit.

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