* Total says wants to move ahead with project
* French oil major to initally invest $1 bln
* Potential new U.S. sanctions create uncertainty (Adds Total comment)
By Babak Dehghanpisheh
BEIRUT, Nov 21 (Reuters) - France’s Total will lose all of its investment if it pulls out of a deal with Iran to develop South Pars, the world’s largest gas field, the Iranian oil minister said on Tuesday.
“If Total, without the enforcement of (U.N.) Security Council sanctions, announces that it has the intention to leave the contract, no capital will be returned to this company and no sum will be transferred to the company,” oil minister Bijan Zanganeh was quoted as saying by SHANA, the news site of the Iranian oil ministry.
Total signed a deal with Tehran in July to develop phase 11 of Iran’s South Pars field with an initial investment of $1 billion, marking the first major Western energy investment in the Islamic Republic since the lifting of sanctions.
The French oil and gas company said in a statement on Tuesday it was committed to Iran and had the “willingness to move forward” with the South Pars project.
“Total is currently working on the South Pars 11 project and is committed to pursuing it. Tenders have already been launched and contacts should be awarded by January,” a Total spokesman said.
Total’s Chief Executive Patrick Pouyanne said last week the oil major would have to review its Iran gas project if the United States decided to impose unilateral sanctions on Tehran over its nuclear programme, given Total’s assets in the U.S. market.
The U.S. Congress is due to decide within about a month whether to reinstate sanctions on Iran, after U.S. President Donald Trump refused to formally certify that Tehran was complying with its nuclear deal.
Zanganeh said Total had pledged 56 million euros ($66 million) for the South Pars project and work was progressing as specified in the contract.
Total will be the operator with a 50.1 percent stake, alongside Chinese state-owned oil and gas company CNPC with 30 percent, and National Iranian Oil Co subsidiary Petropars with 19.9 percent.
Separately, the managing director of the Iranian Gas Transmission Company, Saeed Tavakoli, said on Tuesday that Iran exported 5.4 billion cubic metres of gas to Turkey between March and September.
In the previous Iranian year, which began in March 2016 and ended in March 2017, Iran exported eight billion cubic metres of gas to Turkey, SHANA quoted Tavakoli as saying.
On average, Iran exports 30 million cubic metres of gas a day to Turkey, Tavakoli said, according to SHANA.
$1 = 0.8520 euros Reporting by Babak Dehghanpisheh, additional reporting by Ron Bousso in London; Editing by Susan Fenton and Mark Potter