Washington Post | September 30, 2010

The United States announced Thursday that four of Europe’s five biggest oil companies would end their energy investments in Iran, a significant advance in the Obama administration’s efforts to pressure the Iranian government to enter negotiations over its alleged nuclear weapons program.

At the same time, U.S. officials said they were working to pressure China and other countries to bar their companies from filling the vacuum created by the departing Europeans.

Deputy Secretary of State James B. Steinberg said Royal Dutch Shell, based in Britain and the Netherlands; France’s Total; Eni of Italy; and the Norway-based Statoil had committed to no further investments in Iran.

“These companies have provided assurances they will stop or are taking significant verifiable steps to stop their activity in Iran,” Steinberg said. He also announced that the United States was slapping sanctions on a subsidiary of an Iranian oil company in Switzerland.

Steinberg’s announcement marked the first public actions on the issue since the United States tightened sanctions against Iran on July 1, when President Obama signed the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability and Divestment Act into law. Since enhanced U.N. sanctions were authorized against Iran in June, the United States, the European Union, Japan, South Korea, Canada, Norway and Australia have passed legislation further targeting Iran’s economy and energy sector. Iran says its nuclear program is entirely peaceful.

Among the other moves announced Thursday, the State Department said European and Kuwaiti firms along with Russia’s Lukoil, India’s Reliance and Turkey’s Turpras have stopped or promised to stop selling gasoline and other refined products to Iran. British Petroleum and Shell said they are no longer supplying jet fuel to Iran Air. And Lloyd’s of London announced it would not insure or reinsure petroleum shipments going into Iran.

Read the full story in The Washington Post. >>