OREANDA-NEWS. Iran will hold its first post-sanctions international oil and gas bidding round in the next Iranian calendar month of Mehr, which begins on 22 September, state-owned NIOC's managing director Ali Kardor said today.

Oil minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh originally planned to hold this first international bidding round in July. But those plans were put on hold after mounting political opposition to the country's new upstream investment contract, which is aimed at attracting billions of dollars of badly-needed funds to the country.

The terms on offer to foreign companies under the contract have undergone two rounds of changes to date, under pressure from parliamentarians and oil sector officials who say they were too generous to the foreign party. Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has warned the terms need to be in line with national interests.

The new framework has yet to be passed into law. Kardor's comments suggest he expects this final step to be taken in the coming week or two, allowing NIOC and the oil ministry to move ahead with its plans for its bidding round in the Iranian month of Mehr.

Zanganeh had previously said Iran's priority is the development of those fields and reservoirs it shares with its neighbours, including the South Azadegan oil field on the border with Iraq, the offshore Farzad B gas field in the Mideast Gulf, phase 11 of the South Pars gas field Iran shares with Qatar, and the South Pars oil layer.

Kardor today echoed the minister's comments. "South Azadegan will likely be the first of the big oil fields to be offered in this coming bidding round," he said. Iran's small and mid-sized fields will be offered in following rounds, Kardor said.