DOWN GOES THE DEAL

WITH LITTLE WARNING, THE WHITE HOUSE SCUTTLES A $1 BILLION CONTRACT BETWEEN CONOCO AND IRAN

Was this any way to strike a billion-dollar trade deal? For four years the Conoco company had been negotiating to develop two huge offshore oil fields in Iran, but the deal's managers kept only low-level State Department officials informed of the broad nature of the talks. As a result, just after Conoco and the Iranians reached their agreement this month--but before the Houston-based company had sought approval from senior U.S. officials or board members of DuPont, its corporate parent--the contract flared into a political and diplomatic incident as unwelcome to Conoco as a fire in an oil well. It was left...

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