Norway hails ‘historic’ Iran deal

Norway’s foreign minister Børge Brende has welcomed Tuesday’s “historic” nuclear deal between Iran and the West, struck in Vienna after 18 days of talks.

Norway hails 'historic' Iran deal
StatoilHydro's team celebrating Norway's national day at Iran's South Pars field in 2009. Photo: Remi Vik
After marathon talks in the Austrian capital, an accord was reached on Tuesday aimed at ending the 13-year standoff over Iran’s nuclear ambitions, following repeated diplomatic failures and threats of military action.
“This historic agreement will benefit the international community, the Middle East and Iran,” Brende said in a statement. “It will also pave the way for closer political and economic contact with Iran.” 
He predicted that the easing of sanctions would present business opportunities for Norwegian businesses, but said it was up to the companies themselves to make the decision. 
“We must leave the assessment of the opportunities and risks of increased cooperation with Iran to the companies,” he said. 
“This is good news,” Tommy Hansen, the press director for the Norwegian Oil and Gas Association. “Iran is a large market, which require both technology and expertise after years of sanctions. This is an opportunity for Norwegian companies.” 
The oil services and engineering company Aker Solutions said last week that it was interested in resuming operations in Iran should sanctions be lifted. 
But Statoil, which holds an exploration license for Iran’s Khorramabad block, and worked as the offshore operator for the development of phases 6, 7 and 8 of the South Pars gas and condensate field, would not comment on whether it planned to return to the country. 
A Norwegian court in 2004 found the company guilty of bribing an Iranian official to win the South Pars contract, triggering the resignation of its then chairman and chief executive. 
Some oil industry experts predicted that the deal would be negative for Norway’s economy, with new oil and gas supplies from Iran further driving down the oil price. 
“For Norway’s offshore production, it’s not that positive,” Thina Saltvedt, an oil analyst at Oslo-based Nordea Markets, told Bloomberg news. “Companies on the Norwegian shelf will face tougher competition because costs must be reduced even further to be competitive internationally.”
Iran has several million barrels of oil in stock, waiting to hit world markets when sanctions are limited. 
The deal agreed on Tuesday puts strict limits on Iran’s nuclear activities for at least a decade and calls for stringent UN oversight, with world powers hoping that this will make any dash to make an atomic bomb virtually impossible.
In return, painful international sanctions that have slashed the oil exports of OPEC’s fifth-largest producer by a quarter and choked its economy will be lifted and billions of dollars in frozen assets unblocked.
The deal — which was built on a framework first hammered out in April — is US President Barack Obama’s crowning foreign policy achievement six years after he told Iran’s leaders that if they “unclench their fist, they will find an extended hand from us”.
It was hailed by Iran and the European Union as a new chapter of hope for the world but branded a “historic mistake” by the Islamic republic’s arch foe Israel.
The Local Austria has much more on the Iran nuclear deal here

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Iranian diplomat seeks Norway asylum

An Iranian diplomat has applied for political asylum in Norway, his lawyer confirmed on Friday.

"He doesn't want to comment in public on his reasons for doing this," Jørgen Løvdal said.

The man, who wished to remain anonymous, was posted to Norway in 2009 and had been working at the Iranian embassy in Oslo, but defected in December, Løvdal said.

"Unfortunately we do not have any comment on this matter," a spokesman for the Iranian embassy in Oslo said when contacted by AFP.

The man would be the fourth Iranian diplomat to seek protection in a Nordic country in three years.

The ex-consul general of Iran's embassy in Oslo, Mohamed Reza Heydari, was granted asylum by Norway in February 2010 after resigning from his job.

A press attache at the Iranian embassy in Brussels, Farzad Farhangian who also defected to Norway in 2010, said in September that year he intended to join the opposition to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

In the same month, a senior official at Iran's embassy in Helsinki, Hossein Alizadeh, sought asylum in Finland.

Tehran said personal rather than political motives were behind Heydari's and Farhangian's defections, while an Iranian MP accused the three diplomats of having mental problems.