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S.Africa, Iran sign cooperation pact

JOHANNESBURG, Sept. 19 -- South Africa and Iran signed a cooperation agreement on minerals and mining Tuesday, a move likely to upset the United States which is concerned about growing ties between the nations. 'I look forward to this cooperation because Iran can become an even more important trading partner of South Africa,' Minerals and Energy Affairs Minister Roelof 'Pik' Botha said after signing the agreement with his Iranian counterpart, Mines and Metals Minister Hossein Mahlouji.

Under terms of the agreement, South Africa and Iran undertake to encourage, promote and facilitate investment and joint ventures to explore and exploit minerals and related products. The agreement also facilitates cooperation between scientific and technical research institutes, and the exchange scientific and technological information, the South African Press Association reported. Questioned about Washington's reaction, Botha told journalists he had nothing to justify to the United States and was working in the interest of South Africa. The United States has objected to a previous agreement between South Africa and Iran to store 15 million barrels of Iranian oil at South African depots, saying the deal undermined a U.S. trade embargo against Tehran imposed to stall Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons. South Africa has repeatedly told the United States that while it values good South African-American relations, Washington must not interfere with Pretoria's relations with Tehran.

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