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Russia and Iran to sign energy "road map"

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia said on Tuesday it planned to sign a road map to outline future energy cooperation with Iran.

Russian oil and gas majors Gazprom, Gazprom Neft and LUKOIL, have signed billions of dollars worth of deals to help Iran develop its oil and gas fields but most projects are on holding because of sanctions.

The document will be signed on Wednesday when Iranian Oil Minister Massoud Mirkazemi meets his Russian counterpart Sergei Shmatko in Moscow, the oil ministry said without providing details.

At best, analysts said, it will reflect Russia’s efforts to walk a safe path between international sanctions and Moscow’s wish to maintain ties with a fellow oil and gas power.

“The ministers will discuss the current situation in Russia-Iranian energy cooperation and will outline prospects for future cooperation,” the statement said.

“The ministries will study issues linked to the creation of favorable conditions to intensify and make cooperation in the energy sphere between Iran and Russia more concrete,” it added.

Russia voted for sanctions in the United Nations Security Council on June 9 that target the Islamic Republic banking and shipping sectors because of Iran’s failure to allay fears over its disputed nuclear programme.

“Russian companies are taking a cautious approach to this country at this moment they don’t want to engage in politically risky and financially risky projects,” Troika Dialog analyst Valery Nesterov said.

“The maximum terms they can offer are oil services contracts which are not especially rewarding as they don’t secure additional oil supplies for the companies.”

But Russian state controlled companies are unlikely to shut down investment or withdraw completely from Iran, holder of vast untapped oil and gas resources.

Russia’s No. 2 oil producer, LUKOIL -- 20 percent owned by U.S. oil major ConocoPhillips -- has decreed a halt to its gasoline exports to fuel-hungry Iran.

But state controlled Gazprom has said it is bidding to develop the Azar oilfield and has expressed interest in Iran’s giant South Pars field.

The Kremlin’s influence in Tehran is a key lever of influence in its relationship with the United States and the European Union, which fear Tehran is seeking to create a nuclear bomb. Iran denies it is seeking nuclear weapons.

“There is an understanding that Russia needs to engage with Iran at some level,” Weafer said. “The last thing the U.S. would actually want is for Tehran to end up only speaking to Beijing because that would limit U.S. back door access to Tehran.”

Reporting by Melissa Akin and Dmitry Zhdannikov; Editing by William Hardy