Monday, November 29, 1999

Iran seeks to boost Brazil trade as sanctions loom

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Trade between Iran and Brazil could increase nearly five-fold to some $10 billion, an Iranian official said on Sunday during a visit by Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva to the Islamic Republic.The official, Behrouz Alishiri, did not give a time frame, but state radio said the projection was for annual bilateral trade to reach that level in five years' time.Lula is in Tehran to help mediate in a standoff over Iran's nuclear programme, as Brazil seeks more diplomatic clout on the world stage. It is seen as probably the last chance to avoid a new round of U.N. sanctions against the major oil producer.Analysts say Western companies are increasingly wary of investing in Iran because of the nuclear dispute and that Tehran is shifting to countries from Asia and elsewhere to develop its oil and gas fields. It has also boosted ties with Latin America.The head of Brazil's energy regulator said in Tehran on Saturday the two countries were likely to sign a memorandum which would open the way for Brazilian firms to participate in the modernisation of Iran's oil sector.Alishiri, head of an Iranian government body promoting investment in the Islamic state, told an economic conference attended by representatives from the two countries that Iran offered high returns for foreign investors.He suggested that Brazilian companies could buy stakes in Iranian state firms to be privatised and also take part in planned bond offerings to help finance energy sector projects."Attaining $10 billion in trade exchanges between Iran and Brazil is not far-fetched," Alishiri said, according to state broadcaster IRIB."Iran has the highest return on capital in the world, ranging (between) 25-85 percent in some projects. We have no limitation in foreign investment, and welcome Brazil's investment in Iran," he said.State radio said bilateral trade had increased to more than $2 billion in the 2009-10 year from $500 million in 2005, and was forecast to reach some $10 billion in the next 5 years.Haroldo Lima, the head of Brazil's energy regulator, told Reuters on Saturday that his country could help Iran with equipment and engineering. In exchange, Iran could provide Brazil with drills to help in the exploration of deep-water oil.Lima said the Iranians had urged Brazilian companies to take part in the privatisation of some of Iran's refineries.The United States and some of its allies accuse Iran of trying to use its civilian nuclear programme as a cover for pursuing nuclear weapons. Iran says its programme is solely to generate electricity.(Reporting by Hashem Kalantari; writing by Fredrik Dahl; editing by David Cowell)

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