LONDON (Reuters) - Iran signed a preliminary deal on Wednesday for a consortium of international companies to develop an oilfield, the first such contract since Washington withdrew from a nuclear agreement and said it would reinstate sanctions on Tehran.
National Iranian South Oil Company (NISOC) signed a so-called heads of agreement (HOA) with London-based Pergas, the oil ministry's news agency SHANA said.
The consortium will aim to produce 655 million barrels of oil from the Keranj field in Khuzestan province, southwest Iran, over the next 10 years, SHANA said.
British Ambassador to Tehran Rob Macaire and Pergas managing director Colin Rowley were present at the signing ceremony in Tehran, it added.
"We hope that the UK government ... endorses the agreement," Iranian oil minister Bijan Zanganeh was quoted as saying by SHANA.
Zanganeh added that he expected European countries to make up for the U.S. "betrayal" of the nuclear deal, and support Western companies that sign deals with Tehran.
The agreement was announced on the same day that French energy group Total (TOTF.PA) said it would pull out of a multibillion-dollar gas project in Iran if it couldn't secure a waiver from U.S. sanctions.
Zanganeh said Tehran would spare no efforts to maintain its oil production and exports at current levels, and predicted it would overcome the difficulties resulting from the U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear deal.
"The current situation will pass and Iran will emerge as a winner," he was quoted as saying. "Iran is a peace-seeking nation, and honours its contracts," he added.
Zanganeh also said oil prices at $60-$65 (£44.4-£48.1) per barrel would be "logical" and that he believed the United States was trying to keep prices inflated to support U.S. shale oil growth.
"Despite what Americans say that they do not support high oil prices, the high prices of oil can justify shale production, increase investment and create more jobs in the United States," Bijan Zanganeh was quoted as saying by Mehr news agency.
(Reporting by Bozorgmehr Sharafedin; Editing by Richard Balmforth and Mark Potter)