JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said on Tuesday that Rome had taken a firm stance on blocking new oil and gas investments in Iran, where Italy’s Eni is involved in the Darkhovin oilfield.
Frattini told Italian television from Israel, where he was on an official visit with the prime minister, that his country had gone as far as to suspend export credit guarantees for firms investing in Iran.
“We are absolutely firm about blocking new investments in the oil and gas sector. We have already blocked insurance by the SACE (Italian Export Credit Agency) for anyone investing in Iran. This is a completely correct measure that our Israeli friends will appreciate,” the Italian minister said.
Western powers have called for a fresh round of United Nations measures against Iran for refusing to halt uranium enrichment activities.
Iran says it is producing fuel for a peaceful energy programme but the West fears Tehran aims to develop nuclear weapons that would pose a threat to Israel and other countries.
Italy was traditionally one of Iran’s main trading partners in Europe but Prime Minister Silvo Berlusconi’s close ties with Israel, and diplomatic pressure over the nuclear dispute, have led to a sharp reduction in Italian investments in Iran.
“We were asked to reduce the volume of trade. We have no secrets from our Israeli friends and will give them the trade data. From 2001 to 2008 it fell by more than half and in the first months of 2009 it fell by 30 percent from 2008, while it is less than half of Germany’s trade (with Iran),” Frattini said.
Reporting by Valentina Rusconi in Jerusalem; writing by Stephen Brown, editing by Anthony Barker