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Iran Increases Pressure on Kuwait over Gas Field

Source: Reuters 1/1/2012, Location: Middle East

Iran said that it would launch full-scale unilateral development of the disputed offshore Arash gas field in the Gulf if Kuwait does not respond to its offer of joint development, according to the official IRNA news agency.

"Our emphasis presently is on joint partnership strategy rather than competition, and we are hopeful to reach a conclusion with Kuwait over the development of the shared Arash field," the agency quoted Mahmoud Zirakchianzadeh, the head of state Offshore Oil Company, as saying.

He said Iran's policy on shared oil and gas fields is partnership rather than confrontation.

But "if Iran's positive diplomacy is turned down, we will be carrying on our efforts at Arash field unilaterally just as we did in Hengam oil field," Zirakchianzadeh said, using stronger language than Iran has used previously in the dispute. Iran is developing its part of the offshore Hengam oil field, shared with Oman, on its own.

Zirakchianzadeh said Iran has already launched its "operational activities" on the development and production at Arash and was not dragging its feet in anticipation of Kuwait's response.

Arash gas field is located on Iran-Kuwait's water border and it is called Dorra in the Kuwait part of the field. The field's gas reserve is estimated at one trillion cubic feet along with some 310 million barrels of oil.

Kuwait and its neighbour Saudi Arabia have protested to non-Arab Iran on its drilling for gas in the disputed field when the three states have not reached an accord on demarcating their sea borders in the northern Gulf. Iran has the world's second largest gas reserves but has struggled for years to develop them due to tightening international sanctions that have kept away foreign energy firms with the capital and technology it needs.

Foreign investors have treated Iran with caution because it has come under mounting international pressure over its nuclear programme. The United States and its European allies fear Iran is trying to build bombs under the cover of a civilian nuclear programme. Tehran says its nuclear work is aimed at generating power to meet the country's surging demand.

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