Iranian president Hassan Rouhani listens after his address at the World Economic Forum in Davos, on January 23, 2014
Iranian president Hassan Rouhani listens after his address at the World Economic Forum in Davos, on January 23, 2014 © Eric Piermont - AFP
Iranian president Hassan Rouhani listens after his address at the World Economic Forum in Davos, on January 23, 2014
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Angus MACKINNON
Last updated: January 24, 2014

Iran extends energy olive branch to West

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Iran on Thursday stepped up its efforts to woo investors and normalise its relations with the West with an offer to help create a new multilateral body tasked with stabilising global energy supplies.

President Hassan Rouhani told the World Economic Forum in Davos that Tehran was ready to put some of its extensive oil and gas reserves at the disposal of the proposed new body in an initiative designed to underline his government's desire for a new relationship with the West following the partial easing of crippling sanctions under an interim deal on Iran's nuclear capacity.

Rouhani told the annual gathering of business and political leaders from across the world that energy provided an important link between economic and security interests.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran is ready to engage in constructive cooperation in promoting global energy security by relying on its vast energy resources in a framework of mutual interest," Rouhani said.

"We are prepared to engage in a serious process to establish a reliable institution for this long-term partnership."

Iran's oil exports are currently running at around half the level they were at before the UN sanctions were applied in 2006 over Tehran's suspected attempts to develop nuclear weapons.

An agreement to partially ease the sanctions took effect this week in line with an interim accord on Iran's nuclear capacity agreed between Tehran and major world powers in November.

The interim agreement is intended to pave the way for a fuller accord and a further lifting of sanctions and Iran is already seeking to persuade oil majors to start planning for a large-scale resumption of investment in the country.

Rouhani has had a string of private meetings with senior oil executives here and also met with Mark Rutte, the Prime Minister of the Netherlands, which is home to Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell.

In his speech, Rouhani described the nuclear accord, which limits his country's ability to enrich uranium and provides for inspections of its facilities, as marking the start of a new phase in relations with the United States.

He also said Iran was moving quickly to normalise its relations with neighbouring and European states.

But he reiterated Tehran's stance that it will never give up its right to join some 40 other countries in acquiring the capacity to generate nuclear power and use nuclear technology for other peaceful ends.

"We have never sought anything other than peaceful use of nuclear technology and we will not accept obstacles being put in the way of our scientific progress," he said.

In an apparent reference to Israel, Rouhani said he saw the major impediment to a full nuclear accord as "a lack of serious will by other parties or pressure influenced by others."

"It is a long, winding and difficult road but if we stay serious and have enough will, we can push through and it will benefit Iran, the West and the whole world."

Israel believes Iran remains dangerously close to the capacity to build a nuclear missile which would threaten the Jewish state's existence. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is also in Davos, on Thursday denounced Rouhani's latest charm offensive as a typical piece of deception.

"Rouhani has admitted that a decade ago, he deceived the West in order to advance the Iranian nuclear programme," Netanyahu said. "He is doing this today as well.

"The goal of the ayatollahs' regime, which is hiding behind Rouhani's smiles, is to ease sanctions without conceding on their programme to produce nuclear weapons."

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