February 24, 2012 / 1:28 PM / in 6 years

Angola's Sonangol pulls out of Iran gas project

LISBON (Reuters) - Angolan state oil company Sonangol has pulled out of a $7.5 billion natural gas project in Iran and informed the Iranian government it can no longer operate there because of sanctions, a senior company official said on Friday.

An engineer looks at the Phase 4 and Phase 5 gas refineries in Assalouyeh, Iran. REUTERS/Caren Firouz

“We are out of Iran,” Mateus Morais de Brito, a member of the company’s executive board, said at a news conference in Luanda.

“Nowadays it has become unsustainable for us to develop technical and operational activities in Iran due to this matter of the sanctions,” Mateus Morais de Brito, a member of the company’s executive board, said at a news conference in Luanda.

A recording of the briefing was obtained by Reuters.

U.S. and European diplomatic efforts have included a push to get African countries to cut economic ties with Iran over its nuclear programme.

Angola’s departure is significant as it is a major energy player in its own right and Africa’s second-biggest oil producer after Nigeria. The country is also the second-largest crude supplier to China after Saudi Arabia.

Sonangol took a 20 percent stake in Iran’s South Pars-12 natural gas project in December 2009, replacing Austria’s OMV in the venture. At the time the project was expected to be developed at a cost of $7.5 billion.

Iran’s refusal to curb sensitive atomic activities which can have both civilian and military purposes and its record of years of nuclear secrecy have drawn increasingly tough U.N. and separate U.S. and European measures.

The United States has imposed new financial sanctions since the beginning of this year to pressure Tehran and the European Union has followed suit by imposing sanctions on oil imports from Iran, which will come into effect on July 1.

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