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Malaysian company says work in Iran will go on despite U.S. protests

November 17, 1997

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) _ A Malaysian company that has angered Washington by doing business with Iran said Monday it would continue developing an Iranian oil well despite U.S. protests.

``We are allowed to do business with countries we want to do business with. Our business will continue,″ Petronas President Hassan Marican was quoted as saying by the national news agency Bernama.

Hassan’s statement was his first reaction since Washington announced it wanted to investigate the $2 billion deal that three companies signed in September. He said he had not been contacted by U.S. authorities.

The statement came two days before William Ramsay, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for energy, sanctions and commodities, was to arrive in Kuala Lumpur to discuss the deal with Malaysian officials.

Petronas, the Malaysian national oil company, France’s Total SA and Russia’s Gazprom are involved in developing the South Pars gas project in Iran. Petronas has a 30 percent stake in the project.

Under the Iran and Libya Sanctions Act, the United States has the power to punish companies that invest $20 million or more in Iran’s oil and natural gas sector, or at least $40 million in Libya’s energy sector.

But Hassan said Monday that Petronas would not submit to sanctions. Preliminary work on the Iranian oil field has started and would continue, he said.

Malaysia says the U.S. investigation is interference in its internal affairs and an affront.

On Wednesday, Ramsay is scheduled to meet officials of the Malaysian Foreign Ministry. No meetings were scheduled with Petronas, U.S. Ambassador John R. Mallot said. The visit, he said, was to explain the sanctions law to Malaysian officials.

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