| MOSCOW, Sept 20
MOSCOW, Sept 20 Russia has agreed to develop an
Iranian zinc deposit that is among the largest in the world in a
deal involving an Iranian bank that faces international
sanctions, the Russian business newspaper Kommersant reported on
The agreement to develop the Mehdiabad zinc and
lead deposit was reached at a trade meeting on Sept. 11 that
brought Russia's Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko to Iran,
Citing a source close to the talks, it said the project's
cost was estimated at $1 billion-$1.2 billion. Shmatko's office
did not immediately comment on the report.
Kommersant said the deal, shepherded by powerful Deputy
Prime Minister Igor Sechin, calls for a joint venture linking
state conglomerate Russian Technologies with Iran's Saderat
Bank, which faces U.S. and U.N. sanctions.
The source said Iran was insisting on participation of the
state-owned export-focused Saderat Bank, which was named in a
2008 U.N. Security Council resolution, approved by Russia, that
tightened sanctions on Tehran for its nuclear activities.
The Security Council urged states to "exercise vigilance"
over the bank's activities abroad to avoid contributing to
"proliferation-sensitive nuclear activities, or to the
development of nuclear weapon delivery systems."
Two years earlier, the United States had barred the bank
from any direct or indirect dealings with U.S. institutions
citing it as a "significant facilitator" of the financial
activities of the Islamist group Hezbollah.
Veto-wielding permanent member Russia has backed four
successive rounds of Security Council sanctions against Iran
over its nuclear programme, which Western nations fear is aimed
at acquiring weapons.
But it has worked with China to water down the resolutions
and has criticised additional sanctions imposed by the United
States and European Union, saying they could undermine efforts
to persuade Iran to rein in its nuclear activities.
While Russia is a member of the six-nations seeking to
engage Tehran on its nuclear programme, it has warmer ties with
Iran than Western nations do and has built the Islamic state's
first nuclear power plant, which went on-line this month.
Under the U.N. resolution, vigilance over the bank's
activities is limited to its activities abroad, limiting the
scope for opposition to the reported project.
"Because the project is in the interest of Russian
Technologies, I think the two sides will find a way out of the
situation that has developed," the source said.
Russian Technologies declined to comment on the report.
The structure of any potential joint venture is not yet
clear, Kommersant said.
Deposits at the Mehdiabad reserve, near Yazd in central
Iran, amount to 394 million tonnes of zinc, lead and silver, it
Development rights until recently belonged to Mehdiabad Zinc
Co, which had Australian partners, but the report said that its
licence had been recently revoked.
(Additional reporting by Gleb Stolyarov)