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Britain pushing to ease sanctions on BP gas field: report

BP logo is seen at a fuel station of British oil company BP in St. Petersburg, October 18, 2012. REUTERS/Alexander Demianchuk
BP logo is seen at a fuel station of British oil company BP in St. Petersburg, October 18, 2012. REUTERS/Alexander Demianchuk

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain could be close to agreeing a deal to ease sanctions that have stopped gas production from the North Sea's Rhum field, jointly owned by BP and the National Iranian Oil Co., the Mail on Sunday newspaper said.

Production from the field, which once supplied 5 percent of Britain's gas output, has been suspended since 2010 as a result of international sanctions against Iran.

But with signs of a thaw in relations between Iran and the West, the government now hopes to win agreement from the European Union and the United States for a sanctions waiver in the near future, the newspaper said, citing people close to the talks.

One stumbling block to a deal, however, could be concerns from companies involved in financing and servicing the field that any exemption for the producers would not fully protect them from legal action, it added.

A Department of Energy and Climate Change spokesman said: "We are working to ensure the long-term security of the Rhum gas field but no decision has been made at this time on a solution."

A spokesman for BP declined to comment on the possibility of a waiver being granted.

"As operator of the field our priorities are two-fold - to ensure the field remains safe and that we remain compliant with the law," he said. "It is up to the government to decide on the longer-term options."

(Reporting by Paul Sandle and Andrew Callus; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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