Iran’s Rohani Heads to Italy, France to Boost Economic Ties

Iranian President Hassan Rohani flew to Italy on Monday at the start of his first official visit to Europe, looking to sign multi-billion dollar contracts to help modernize Iran’s economy after years of crippling financial sanctions.

Heading a 120-strong delegation of Iranian business leaders and ministers, Rohani will spend two days in Rome before flying to France on Wednesday, hoping to burnish Tehran’s international credentials at a time of turmoil across the Middle East.
While diplomacy will figure high on his agenda, trade ties are likely to dominate the headlines, with Iran announcing plans to buy more than 160 European planes, mainly from Airbus, on the eve of Rohani’s departure.

Officials in Rome said Italian companies were poised to sign deals worth up to 17 billion euros ($18.4 billion) over the next two days, including in the energy and steel sectors.

The deals will give a boost to Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who is struggling to revive Italy’s underperforming economy.

Building trust

Europe was Iran’s largest trading partner before sanctions, with Italy and France seen as particularly close to Tehran. Both countries sent trade delegations to Iran last year in the wake of the nuclear accord laying the groundwork for tie-ups.

Among the deals being readied for Italy was a pipeline contract worth between $4 billion and $5 billion for oil services group Saipem, a source with knowledge of the matter said. Saipem was not immediately available for a comment.

In addition, Italian steel firm Danieli will sign commercial agreements worth up to $5.7 billion with Iran, a company spokesman said. These accords will include a joint venture with other international investors, to be called Persian Metallics, worth $2 billion.

Full article: Iran’s Rohani Heads to Italy, France to Boost Economic Ties (Haaretz)

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