Update: After stinging report, gov seeks facts

Gov. Tim Pawlenty has officially asked the U.S. State Dept. for clarification about Essar Global’s involvement in Iranian oil. It’s a good thing he did this before he called a press conference blasting state support for Essar’s Nashwauk steelmaking project as Minnesota possibly funding terrorism.

Oh, wait. D’oh!

Pawlenty asks State Department for clarification on company’s Iran ties
Duluth News Tribune – 10/29/2007

Gov. Tim Pawlenty said today he remains “hopeful” that he will be able to support plans to build a $1.2 billion steel slab plant near Nashwauk. But first, he said he needs assurances from its primary investor, Essar Global Ltd., that the company will abide by sanctions aimed at punishing Iran for its terrorist activities.

Pawlenty believes the Indian company’s involvement in a proposed Iranian refinery project could constitute financial support for what the U.S. government has labeled a terrorist state. He’s also concerned about Essar’s other business dealings in Iran, including a potential investment in a joint-venture steel mill, the pending acquisition of exploration rights in the Azadegan oil fields and the purchase of oil and liquefied natural gas from the company.

On Monday, Pawlenty sent a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and David Mulford, the U.S. ambassador to India, asking for their help in determining whether Essar’s activities in Iran run afoul of U.S. law.

“I seek the assistance of your department in determining if Essar’s activities in Iran are a potential violation of the Iran Country Sanctions Act or are otherwise a cause for concern. If they are not, I will gladly support their efforts in Minnesota,” the governor wrote.

If the company gets a clean bill of health from federal authorities and pledges to honor trade sanctions imposed against Iran, Pawlenty said he will back Itasca County’s request for about $62 million in state funding to install some of the infra-structure needed to support a steel plant.

“The Minnesota Steel project is one that I have supported, and I want it to go forward,” Pawlenty said. “No one was more heartbroken than me when I learned of this potential problem related to Essar’s involvement in Iran. I still hope this issue can be cleared up and the project will be able to move forward.”

The governor is particularly perturbed by a Reuters news service report that Essar plans to help begin building an $8 bil-lion to $10 billion oil refinery in southern Iran next year. Iran currently has no large-scale oil refining capabilities, and the Reuters report indicated Essar planned to partner with its government to build a facility.

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