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Monday, December 14, 1998 Published at 17:49 GMT

World: Middle East

Iran signs Caspian oil deal

Two western oil companies, Shell and the British-based Lasmo,have signed an agreement with Iran to explore for oil in the Caspian Sea.

The agrement with the National Iranian Oil Company will run for eighteen months and could lead to drilling operations.

The costs of twenty million dollars will be shared equally by the western companies.

A Lasmo spokesman told the BBC that the deal was below the figure set by the United States at which sanctions would apply to companies investing in Iran.

Washington has tried to exclude Iran from international deals to develop the Caspian region's reserves, estimated to be the third largest in the world.

From the newsroom of the BBC World Service

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