Wednesday, 05 October, 2016

‘New Iran’ says foreign investment welcome

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The Iranian delegation to the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum on Wednesday welcomed the prospect of foreign investment in the country after the lifting of economic sanctions relating to its nuclear program, USA Today reported.

Mohammad Nahavandian, chief of staff of the office of Iran’s president, said in a panel discussion here that “foreign investment is welcome in the new Iran.”

He said there were “ample opportunities which can serve job creation” not only in Iran but in the wider region. Global transit corridors can pass through the Islamic Republic, which is strategically located, he added.

Nahavandian said Iran’s economy is forecast to grow by at least 5% this year and has the potential to average 8% growth over the next five years.

Iran plans to boost its oil production following the recent lifting of sanctions under its nuclear deal with world powers. It comes amid turmoil in stock and commodities markets. Oil prices fell below $27 a barrel Wednesday for the first time since 2003.

Nahavandian said that Iran has the world’s largest reserve of natural gas and the 3rd largest inventory for oil, while other opportunities for foreign investors exist in mining, information and communications technology, and the hospitality industry. According to the World Bank, in Sept. 2015 Iran ranked second in the world in terms of natural gas reserves, and fourth in terms of proven crude oil reserves.

“The government is very serious (about) cutting red tape and facilitating trade,’ he said.

Nahavandian said that during sanctions, Iran’s economy relied on goods and services rather than being too dependent on oil revenue.

“Reliance on oil revenue is only 25%,” he said. “When you compare that to other oil-producing countries you can see how vulnerable they are.”

Speaking at the same event Wednesday, Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said “no humiliation was intended” to 10 U.S. sailors who were briefly detained last week after entering Iranian waters.

“We were told sailors were in Iranian waters by mistake,” Zarif said. “These were armed men who entered into Iran’s territory, before it was determined they lost their way unintentionally they had to follow normal procedure.”

On Sunday, the U.S. imposed sanctions against 11 individuals and firms involved in Iran’s ballistic missile program just a day after President Obama lifted economic sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program.

Zarif told the Associated Press he believes the sanctions are “uncalled for” and illegal. “They violate basic principles. The Iranian missile program is a legitimate defense program,” he said.

Iran, with a population of 79 million, has the second largest economy in the Middle East and North Africa after Saudi Arabia. In 2014, it had an estimated GDP of $406.3 billion, according to the World Bank.

War with Saudi Arabia is not possible: Iran

Diplomatic relations between two of the Middle East’s powerhouses may be at a new low but a military conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia is not a possibility, Iran’s foreign minister said on Wednesday.

“(Will there be a war?) No. I think our Saudi neighbors need to realize that confrontation is in the interest of nobody,” Javad Zarif said, speaking at a panel on Iran’s future at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

“There is no threat coming from Iran to any of its neighbors…and are prepared to engage with confidence-building measures with our neighbors.”

Zarif said that the origin of the breakdown in relations with Saudi Arabia came in 2013 when a preliminary nuclear deal was reached, making Saudi Arabia nervous.

“I want to make a point though that since the agreement in Geneva in 2013 our Saudi neighbors have been panicking but there is no need to panic, our friends. Iran is there to work with you and Iran doesn’t want to exclude anyone from this region. There is no need to engage in a confrontation.”

Zarif said those that had attacked the Saudi embassy were being prosecuted but that Saudi had been “looking for an excuse to break diplomatic relations.”

“We should try our best, as Iran has done, to exercise self-restraint and to come to our senses and engage in serious discussions.” He added that extremism and terrorist groups such as the so-called Islamic State were a common enemy that needed to be defeated.

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