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Iranian minister says export guarantee row with Germany almost solved

BERLIN (Reuters) - Iran expects a row with Germany over unpaid state export guarantees to be resolved soon, its industry minister was quoted as saying in a German newspaper on Thursday, a step which would remove a big hurdle to reviving trade relations.

Iran owes Germany about 500 million euros ($570 million) under so-called Hermes covers, a German government arrangement that protects German companies if foreign debtors fail to pay.

Mohammad Reza Nematzadeh told Germany's Handelsblatt newspaper in an interview that there were only a few small problems left to be resolved.

"After my meeting with Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel it looks like the last problems will be able to be solved quickly," Nematzadeh said.

He added that he expected that Gabriel, who was forced to cancel a trip to Iran last month due to illness, would now head to Tehran in October. "By then we hope that all remaining problems will be solved," he said.

A spokesman for Germany's economy ministry said that talks with Iran were still ongoing, but Berlin was optimistic that the government could soon offer fresh state export guarantees to companies that plan to do business with Iran.

German industry has been hoping for a surge in exports to Iran after international sanctions were lifted in January in return for the Islamic Republic complying with a deal to curb its nuclear program.

Nematzadeh said big German firms including Volkswagen, Daimler, Siemens, Linde, BASF and Airbus, were already in negotiations about doing business in Iran.

He added that Germany was interested in long-term co-operation with Germany and would prioritize projects in the transport sector, oil and gas industry, mining and food sector.

Projects that included the necessary financing would be given precedence, he said.

(Reporting by Caroline Copley, Michael Nienaber; Editing by Dominic Evans)