By The Guardian
Majid Namjoo lobbies for increased private investment from India in Iran’s energy sector, during Delhi visit
A senior Iranian minister has called on “independent” nations to “define a new structure for the world” and resist sanctions, during a visit to India.
The energy minister, Majid Namjoo, played down deepening economic problems in Iran and said US and European sanctions imposed over his country’s nuclear programme hurt those who imposed them most.
A new round of sanctions may be announced at a meeting of EU foreign ministers next week.
Namjoo repeated Tehran’s claim that Iran needed nuclear power to replace its vast oil and gas reserves and that Iran had no ambitions to build a nuclear weapon.
“Oil and gas resources will be finished in the future so we need another source of energy,” he told an audience of businessmen in Delhi. “[Western powers and their allies] try to put obstacles; they kill and terrorise our scientists,” Namjoo said, referring to the deaths of several people associated with Iran’s nuclear programme.
Most analysts believe the sanctions are compounding Iran’s economic woes, undermining the value of the national currency. Prices of everyday staples are now rising almost every day.
Iran hopes to build support among traditionally non-aligned powers such as India. However, the relationship with Delhi is complex. Western and Indian intelligence agencies and investigators believe that Iran was behind a bomb attack in Delhi in February that left the wife of an Israeli diplomat badly injured.
India, which suffers a chronic power shortage, imports large amounts of Iranian oil, though it has been trying to reduce the total, under US pressure. Indian diplomats privately play down their trade links with Iran. Iran, one of the world’s largest oil producers, relies on crude sales for 80% of its export revenue and to bring in foreign currency.
Britain, France and Germany hope to tighten already tough EU sanctions on Iran at next week’s meeting. Fears of an imminent Israeli military strike on Iranian nuclear facilities have calmed.
Rather than targeting specific firms, the UK has suggested imposing sanctions on whole sectors of trade with Iran to cover materials that could help Tehran expand its nuclear programme, particularly uranium enrichment. However, some member states fear the effect of enhanced sanctions on the European economy.
Namjoo, who has met a series of Indian ministers in Delhi, lobbied for increased private investment from India in Iran’s energy sector. He referred to the historic legacy of the Silk Route across Asia, and spoke of his admiration for Jawaharlal Nehru, the Indian post-independence leader who pioneered an independent policy for developing world nations.
“The non-aligned movement shows that tyrannic structures in the world cannot continue. Iran and India can play a role in defining new structures,” the minister said. Tehran recently hosted a summit of non-aligned nations.
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