US lawmakers ask Export-Import Bank to stop aid to RIL for Iran ties

Written by Press Trust of India | Washington | Updated: Dec 22 2008, 03:27am hrs
A group of US Congressmen have asked the countrys Export-Import Bank to suspend $900 million worth assistance to Reliance Industries, until the Mukesh Ambani-led Indian conglomerate stops business with Iran.

In a statement issued here, Congressman Brad Sherman said that he along with a bipartisan group of House colleagues have sent... letter to the Ex-Im president calling on the bank to suspend assistance for RIL, until it agrees to stop selling gasoline to Iran.

The letter also calls on Ex-Im to do a better job in the future to ensure that the projects it supports are not in conflict with US national interests. Ex-Im has approved two separate loan guarantees worth $900 million, including a $ 400 million package in August, 2008.

Reliance has been a major supplier of refined petroleum products to Iran. According to some reports, Reliance has at times provided as much as 30 % of oil-rich Irans need for imported refined petroleum products.

Ex-Ims assistance was approved to help finance the expansion of Reliances refining complex at Jamnagar, the very facility that provides Iran with gasoline. Reliances subsidiary RPL is set to fully commission its 580,000 barrels per day only-for-exports refinery at Jamnagar by March and along with its existing 660,000 barrels per day facility would become the worlds largest single location refinery.

I very much support the Export-Import Banks mission of supporting US exports. However, we must ensure that when we provide assistance, the corporate recipients are not doing business with our enemies, said Congressman Brad Sherman. Iran imports about 40 per cent of its gasoline. We could greatly increase our leverage against Tehran in the dispute over its nuclear programme by encouraging those supplying them with gasoline to halt their trade with Iran, Sherman said. Shermans letter follows another sent by Senators Lieberman and Kyl in early November. The Lieberman-Kyl letterraised similar concerns about Ex-Im projects. Ex-Ims response to that letter failed to address the critical shortcomings in the approval process for these loans. Sherman and his House colleagues are calling on Ex-Im to conduct a more robust investigation of the companies it assists, and to do a better job coordinating with the state department and other foreign policy agencies to ensure that the assistance provided is in accord with our vital national security concerns.