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Zarif Says ‘Safe, Stable’ Iran Economy ‘Open for Business’

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif declared his country ready to receive investments as a temporary nuclear deal with world powers eases sanctions.

“This is a safe, stable business environment,” Zarif said at a joint press conference with Belgium counterpart Didier Reynders in the Iranian capital. He invited Belgian companies to “place themselves strategically” and consider business partnerships with Iranians.

“Iran is open for business,” he said, parrying U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew’s Feb. 19 assertion that Iran “is not open for business” following the nuclear deal.

Reynders arrived in Tehran today, at Zarif’s invitation, according to Iran’s state-run Mehr news agency. A Belgian trade delegation is scheduled to visit within the next two months, the vice president of the Federation of Belgian Chambers of Commerce, Jacques Glorieux, was cited as saying today in a meeting with business and economic officials in northern Iran, state-run Fars news agency reported.

More than 100 French businesspeople traveled to Iran earlier this month to explore potential deals in the energy, construction, aviation and automotive industries.

Shrinking Economy

Iran, holder of the world’s fourth-largest proven oil reserves, saw its economy shrink more than 5 percent in the fiscal year through March under the weight of international sanctions. Some of the restrictions imposed over the nation’s nuclear work, were suspended after a Nov. 24 interim deal to freeze parts of the atomic program. Iranian oil exporters, financial institutions and companies linked to the country’s nuclear work are still sanctioned.

Last week, Iran and six nations involved in negotiations over its nuclear program agreed on a schedule for talks in an effort to reach a final accord before the interim deal expires in July. A comprehensive accord would lift all sanctions in exchange for guarantees that Iran’s nuclear program is meant only for civilian purposes, as Iranian officials maintain.

Technical talks are to begin on the sidelines of an International Atomic Energy Agency board of governors meeting beginning March 3 in Vienna, the official Islamic Republic News Agency cited Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi as saying.

In parallel, European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who leads talks with Iran on behalf of the U.S., U.K., France, Germany, Russia and Germany, is to meet Zarif monthly. The next gathering is scheduled in Vienna on March 17, and Ashton will pay her first visit to Tehran before that, Zarif said Feb. 20.

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