Renault aims to go back to Iran as soon as possible

DAVOS, Switzerland Thu Jan 23, 2014 12:53pm EST

DAVOS, Switzerland Jan 23 (Reuters) - French carmaker Renault aims to get back into Iran as soon as sanctions are lifted, chief executive Carlos Ghosn said on Thursday, describing it as "a potentially great market".

Many Western firms have been anticipating a return to Iran following a deal in November over the country's nuclear programme, which Western countries suspect is aimed at developing arms despite Iranian denials.

Some sanctions are now being eased but most remain pending a long-term agreement.

"We consider that this is a potentially great market for the car industry and we want to be able to launch again the operation immediately when the sanctions are lifted," Ghosn told Reuters TV on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos.

"Ourselves and a lot of car manufacturers would love to contribute to the development of the Iranian market, which is already the largest market in the Middle East despite the sanctions."

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has been on a drive to woo politicians and business leaders in Davos, but Ghosn said he had not talked to him, arguing it would be "premature" to engage with officials before sanctions were lifted.

Production by Iran's domestic car industry, which is unusually developed for the Middle East, peaked at 1.6 million cars in 2011, the year crippling new sanctions were introduced. (Reporting by Ben Hirschler; Editing by Mark Potter)