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Iran sanctions, natural gas discoveries redefining Middle East: US State Department's Fannon

London — Mediterranean natural gas discoveries are helping redefine the Middle East as the US and its allies work to deprive Iran of funds through the use of sanctions, the assistant secretary at the US State Department's Bureau for Energy Resources, Francis Fannon, said Wednesday.

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Speaking at the Oil & Money conference in London, Fannon reiterated the US view that Iran uses oil revenues to fund proxy wars and terrorism. "The US is working with allies and partners to deprive the regime of these funds."

Fannon declined to take journalists' questions, including on the possibility of waivers that would limit the impact of sanctions on Iran.

"We are very pleased so many companies and countries are moving forward to stop importing Iranian oil," he told the conference.

Fannon highlighted the major gas discoveries made offshore Egypt and Israel in recent years, and plans for Israeli gas to be exported as LNG via a pipeline to Egyptian LNG export facilities.

"Energy has the potential to foster collaboration in regions historically prone to conflict. In the Eastern Mediterranean energy has catalyzed economic cooperation and reinvigorated diplomacy. Offshore discoveries in Egypt and Israel have redefined regional relationships as governments seek to work together," he said.

Fannon also took aim at Russia and its expansion of the Nord Stream pipeline to Europe, saying the project aimed to divide "free nations" and that Eastern Mediterranean gas could also reinforce European energy security.

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"Gas from the Mediterranean can help Europe's diversification," he said.

Russia "uses energy for coercive political aims," Fannon said. "A project that supplies free nations should not divide them," he said, going on to refer to US allies in NATO, such as the Baltic states.

Fannon praised Lithuania's commissioning of an LNG regasification terminal named the Independence, which is intended to alleviate dependence on Russian gas.

"There should be many suppliers, but one Europe and one trans-Atlantic alliance," Fannon said. --Nick Coleman, nick.coleman@spglobal.com

--Edited by Daniel Lalor, daniel.lalor@spglobal.com