The move comes just days after Norway’s national oil company, StatoilHydro, withdrew from several high-profile gas projects in Iran.

France’s Total has also suspended its work while in May, the UK/Dutch Shell Group cancelled its Iran involvement due to pressure from the US, which remains concerned about Tehran’s nuclear ambitions (MEED 13:5:08).

NIOC says 10 of the projects will be put out to tender before the end of the Iranian financial year, in March 2009.

“Each one of these packages is a major project and there are more than 15, so that we can attract foreign partners and new financial resources,” says Seifollah Jashnsaz, managing director of NIOC on the Oil Ministry’s website Shana. “We [have previously] received a good reception in this respect from both European and Asian companies.”

Asian firms, which have largely shrugged off US sanctions pressure on Iran, may welcome additional commercial activity by a major Middle East energy producer, although the response from Europe may be more muted.