Despite a report by a U.S. government official, Mobil Corp. denied Tuesday that it ever applied for or received a license to engage in oil swaps with Iran.
''The answer is simply no,'' said Chris Springham, a Mobil spokesman in Fairfax, Va., after checking with corporate lawyers and other company officials since early Monday. ''The information must simply be erroneous,'' he said.In Tuesday editions, The Journal of Commerce quoted a U.S. government official as saying Friday that the Clinton administration had authorized one swap deal with Iran and granted a license to Mobil. The license was issued in late 1995, the official said.
In his May 1995 executive order barring trade with Iran, President Clinton created a specific exemption for exchanges of oil to benefit landlocked energy projects in Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Kazakstan. Mobil owns 25 percent of the Tengizchevroil oil-field development project in Kazakstan.
There was no immediate explanation of the conflicting information. Neither the U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, nor his deputy could be reached for comment Tuesday.
Mr. Springham said Mobil did seek guidance on the swap issue from the State Department, but he insisted that the company did not seek a license. ''We certainly discussed this to find out what the policy was,'' he said.
Kazakstan is engaged in a swap deal with Iran, using its share of the oil from the Tengizchevroil project. The exchange is a way of overcoming access problems until pipelines to ports can be built. Under the arrangement, Kazakstan sends oil to northern Iran for local use. Iran then ships an equal amount of crude from its Persian Gulf ports to reimburse Kazakstan.