Rouhani invites U.S. firms to invest in changing Iranian economy

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Rouhani invites U.S. firms to invest in changing Iranian economy

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani sits during his meeting with the French president at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, January 28, 2016.

Iran has no problem with U.S. companies investing in its economy and creating joint ventures, President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday, and he called for foreign investment and diversification away from oil.

The president said the lifting of sanctions last month under a nuclear deal with world powers would see foreign investment turn Iran into an exporter of manufactured goods and ease the economy's reliance on oil exports. 

But he also took a swipe at a hardline vetting body that has excluded many of his moderate allies from running in two important elections in the Islamic Republic later this month, raising the prospect of political instability that would be of concern to would-be investors.

Several major multinational firms have rushed to establish a position in Iran as it reopens for business after the lifting of sanctions that had isolated and hobbled its economy, in exchange for curbs on its disputed nuclear program.

Nevertheless, many contracts have not yet been finalised, and some companies are concerned about a wide range of business risks in the Iranian market. U.S. companies in particular have held back due to separate U.S. sanctions that remain in place.

"If U.S. companies are willing to come and invest in Iran, to bring manufacturing to Iran, we have no problem with that," Rouhani said in a wide-ranging interview aired live on state TV.

He said Iran's economy would change dramatically, away from importing goods paid for by oil sales and toward developing industry through joint ventures with foreign firms, with a view to exporting manufactured goods including cars.

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