Statoil representatives informed the public they would not pursue further investments in Iran while reassuring them that US government had no involvement in the corporate decisions regarding investment in foreign markets.
In August 2008, Statoil CEO Helge Lund told reporters at a press conference that the company would gradually withdraw from Iran, after covering their investments costs to date. He denied that US government pressures had any impact on Statoil’s decision-making.
However, WikiLeaks documents revealed by Aftenposten show that immediately after the press conference, Mr. Lund called former US Ambassador to Oslo, Benson Whitney, and allegedly told him that he was clear in his message to the public that Statoil would eventually leave the world’s largest gas field, the Iranian South Pars.
According to the US cable, Mr. Whitney described Mr. Lund as “extremely proactive” in convincing the media that further investments in Iran would not take place.
Furthermore, the former Ambassador’s notes read that “StatoilHydro had been, and would continue to be, extremely open with the USG (United States Government) as to the company´s Iranian plans.”
According to the leaked documents, Mr Whitney expressed serious concerns over Statoil’s investments at a lunch with Mr Lund in 2007, despite assurances they had no plans of Iranian expansion.
Helge Lund informed him in confidence that the company is “conducting a low profile, but insincere, dialogue with Iranian authorities on future projects to forestall potentially hostile actions against its current investments”.
Statoil has refused to comment on the matter.
The US government has been pressuring both Norwegian commercial and governmental institutions to abstain from any investments in Iran, ever since Norway adopted a regulation in 2007 regarding the illegality of funding any activity supporting the development of nuclear weapons.