Clinton To Bar U.S. Firms From Developing Oil In Iran

President Clinton announced Tuesday that he will bar U.S. oil companies from developing Iranian oil fields, thus killing a pending $1 billion deal and reasserting the United States’ hardline policy toward its longtime adversary.

Administration officials said oil giant Conoco’s plans to develop two offshore oil fields would set back U.S. efforts to isolate a country that has sponsored terrorism, undermined Mideast peace efforts and sought to hasten the spread of nuclear weapons.

“We need to send a clear and unequivocal message to Iran: There cannot be normal relations until Iran’s unacceptable behavior changes,” said Michael D. McCurry, the White House press secretary.

As Clinton announced plans to issue an executive order, Conoco officials said they would back off their planned deal, helping calm a weeklong chorus of criticism from congressional Republicans and others. The deal would have been the first major investment by an oil company in Iran since 1979, when the U.S. broke off trade with the country after the seizure of the U.S. embassy in Teheran by Islamic militants.

Some outside analysts had interpreted Iran’s eagerness to hire an American company over foreign competitors as a sign that a country facing economic collapse wished to normalize relations.

Conoco’s withdrawal came after some dramatic behind-the-scenes corporate maneuvering by the Bronfman family, who are active in major Jewish organizations and are strong supporters of Clinton administration’s efforts to isolate Iran.

Through the Seagram Co., which they run, the Bronfmans hold a 24 percent stake in the DuPont Co., which is parent of the Houstonbased Conoco.

As administration officials reviewed the deal in recent days, the Bronfmans conveyed to DuPont board members their displeasure at the idea of a Conoco deal with Iran.

The Bronfmans are major political supporters of Clintons. Edgar Bronfman Jr., the Seagram’s president and chief executive, attended a White House state dinner last month, and has contributed to Clinton’s legal defense fund. xxxx Trade restrictions ignored NICOSIA, Cyprus Iran calls the United States “The Great Satan.” Washington counters by branding the Persian giant a “rogue state.” But a look at the billions of dollars of trade between the two paints a different picture. The United States has emerged as one of Iran’s largest trading partners, with American companies buying nearly one-quarter of its oil, despite U.S. trade restrictions dating back to the 1979 Islamic Revolution when militants held U.S. Embassy personnel hostage for 444 days. American businesses may not import directly from Iran. But by going through foreign subsidiaries, American businesses have been able to maintain lively trade with the Islamic republic of 60 million people. According to a U.S. Commerce Department report, U.S. firms exported $616 million in goods to Iran in 1993 and received “zero” imports. Associated Press


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