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Iran MPs Make Unprecedented Push To Suspend Energy Contract With Total

Iranian President Hassan Rohani (R) meets with Patrick Pouyanne Chairman and CEO of French energy company Total, after signing an offshore gas field agreement in Tehran, July 3, 2017

Triple emergency motions proposed by a number of MPs, who are opponents of President Hassan Rouhani, to suspend Iran’s recent contract with giant oil company Total was taken off the parliamentary agenda on July 12.

Such a motion is unprecedented during peace time.

Some of the MPs supporting the motion had already branded the contract as “treason,” which forced Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh, to go to parliament, to defend the contract in person.

Following a meeting between Zanganeh and MPs, it was announced that Iran would form a government commission to oversee its deal with the French oil company.

The $5 billion contract, signed on July 3, aims to develop the South Pars gas field, and it is the first major Western energy investment in Iran since the lifting of sanctions last year.

On Tuesday,Total and Qatar Petroleum unveiled a 25-year joint venture to develop the vast offshore Al-Shaheen oil field.

The firms' bosses told a Doha press conference that their North Oil Company would operate the field from July 14. The Iranian and Qatari offshore fields border one another.

The new commission members will include representatives from the judiciary and the heads of the parliament’s energy commission and planning and budget commission, speaker Ali Larijani announced on July 12, according to state media.

The South Pars project includes an initial stage of around $2 billion, and production is expected to start within 40 months, the Oil Ministry said this month.

Total will be the project's operator with a 50.1 percent stake, while Chinese state-owned oil and gas company CNPC will hold 30 percent and National Iranian Oil Co subsidiary Petropars will have 19.9 percent.

Production capacity is expected to be at 2 billion cubic feet per day, or 400,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day including condensate, Total said in a recent statement.

The gas will supply the Iranian domestic market starting in 2021.

Each year of delay in developing South Pars can cost Iran up to $5 billion, Zanganeh told the parliament, according to Oil Ministry news agency SHANA.

A day earlier, the government’s spokesman, Mohammad Bagher Nobakht had warned the MPs, “These individuals are throwing a monkey wrench into the government’s works and, in due time, people are going to settle scores with those who obstruct the country’s development.”

According to Iran Students News Agency, ISNA, the spokesman, while criticizing the MPs who had proposed a triple emergency motion to terminate the contract with Total, dismissed the move as irrelevant, saying, “No motions are needed, for if they see any illegal aspect in the contract, they should present their evidence to the justice department.”