- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A proposed oil deal between Iran and Venezuela has raised congressional concerns, with two prominent House Republicans pushing for a Bush administration probe of whether the deal violates U.S. sanctions laws.

Republican Whip Roy Blunt of Missouri and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, the ranking Republican on the Foreign Affairs Committee, raised questions about whether the deal violates the Iran Sanctions Act

“Our country has a clear and growing interest in making sure [Iranian President] Mahmoud Ahmadinejad doesn’t obtain the resources or capacity needed to support a nuclear-weapons program,” Mr. Blunt said.

Mrs. Ros-Lehtinen raised the issue in a Feb. 6 letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr.

She cited concerns about whether a British Virgin Islands registration would make the company subject to banking sanctions against Iran and allow it to attract international loans.

It was reported in October that the two countries planned to form the Venezuelan-Iranian Oil & Gas Co., a $1 billion enterprise to concentrate on oil and gas developments in countries with tough business conditions for international investors.

Mohammad Ali Talebi, Venezuelan project director of the Iranian oil company Petropars Ltd., said at the time he hoped the new company would be registered in the British Virgin Islands.

The deal would consist of a partnership between Petroleos de Venezuela SA and Iran’s Petropars.

The Venezuelan company is the corporate parent of the U.S. oil firm Citgo.

Mrs. Ros-Lehtinen specifically asked whether the proposed partnership violates Iran sanctions law, whether there are links between Petropars and Citgo, whether Citgo benefits from investment between the two countries or from the new company’s activities or whether other requirements of U.S. law were violated.

The Treasury Department referred a request for comment to the State Department, which had no response to the letter.

Mrs. Ros-Lehtinen said yesterday she will ask Miss Rice further questions on the issue and others related to Venezuela during a committee hearing today.

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