The head of the state-run National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) has denied cutting France’s Total from a joint venture to develop phase 11 of the South Pars gas field.

Hijatollah Ghanimi Fard, deputy head of NIOC, said on 5 December that Iran had excluded Total from the gas development.

However on 14 December, Seifollah Jashnsaz, head of NIOC, told the official Mehr news agency that talks took place between Total and NIOC in the second week of December and that the French firm is still involved .

Total and Malaysia’s Petronas signed a deal with NIOC in 2004 to develop phase 11 of the field, but the French company has yet to start work because of fears over US and UN sanctions against Iran.

In June, CNPC signed a deal to develop the upstream portion of phase 11, which appeared to replace Petronas and Total.

Total was unavailable for comment.