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USA Today: Tillerson Wanted ExxonMobil to Do Business With Iran in 2016

Image: USA Today: Tillerson Wanted ExxonMobil to Do Business With Iran in 2016

Rex Tillerson (AP)

By    |   Tuesday, 10 Jan 2017 07:39 PM

Rex Tillerson, President-elect Donald Trump's nominee for Secretary of State, said in a 2016 interview as CEO of ExxonMobil that the oil giant would be interested in business deals with Iran if sanctions are lifted, USA Today reports.

At his confirmation hearing on Wednesday, Tillerson will face senators within his own party who find that idea reprehensible.

Tillerson made the comments in a March interview with CNBC.

Tillerson told CNBC he would consider doing business in Iran if restrictions against American companies were lifted, but added, "I also learned a long time ago that sometimes being the first in is not necessarily best. We'll wait and see if things open up for U.S. companies. We would certainly take a look because it's a huge resource-owning country."

American companies still are restricted from doing business with Iran, but the nuclear deal negotiated by the Barack Obama administration in 2015 does allow some European companies to do so since the deal was implemented in January 2016.

ExxonMobil spokesman Alan Jeffers told USA Today that Tillerson had been responding only to a hypothetical question when he made the statement.

"Anywhere we can work legally, we would do so, but the current situation in Iran now is not one that allows us to do that," Jeffers told the newspaper.

The company did do business with Iran between 2003 and 2005, before Tillerson became CEO in 2006.

American businesses were barred at the time from doing business with Iran, but was allowed to do so through its European subsidiary Infineum, which is what the company did, ExxonMobil Vice President for Public Affairs Suzanne McCarron told USA Today.

"The transactions in question complied fully with all laws and regulations and no federal agency took action following the company's responses to the [Securities and Exchange Commission's] routine inquiry more than a decade ago," McCarron said. "The company had limited business in the countries during the 2003-2005 period asked about by the SEC, which strictly complied with all applicable regulations."

ExxonMobil does not currently have any such joint ventures with foreign companies, Jeffers said.

Further, Jeffers said, Tillerson's duties before becoming CEO would not have had him involved with Infineum's operations.

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Rex Tillerson, President-elect Donald Trump's nominee for Secretary of State, said in a 2016 interview as CEO of ExxonMobil that the oil giant would be interested in business deals with Iran if sanctions are lifted, USA Today reports.
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