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Sanctions slow development of huge natural gas field in Iran
During a rare visit to the site by reporters this week, small groups of workers in blue shirts could be seen welding pipes and pouring concrete. Looming over them were large posters of Iranian clerical leaders with the slogan "We are able." Only one ship was docked at Asalouyeh's port.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's government, which has adopted a confrontational approach toward the West, has designated the South Pars project as a symbol of national will that exemplifies the capabilities of a resilient nation under siege. Ahmadinejad, who visited Asalouyeh in June, has demanded that all projects be finished within 35 months, a goal that could be difficult to achieve, because many of the project sites currently show no signs of activity.
"Of course we will work faster with Western companies involved," head engineer Sohrab Ghashqai said in English. "But at least now we are educating our young engineers."
But some of those young engineers say that jobs in South Pars are no longer the career stepping stones they once were.
"Working in South Pars meant good pay and interesting work," said one engineer who worked at the site for two years. But jobs dried up with the departure of foreign companies, salaries quickly dropped, and housing conditions in the Persian Gulf heat became intolerable, he explained.
"I left disillusioned," he said. "There is so much potential, but we are not exploiting it."
Special correspondent Kay Armin Serjoie contributed to this report.