GENEVA, March 17 (Xinhua) -- The United States on Monday criticized an agreement for the delivery of natural gas signed between a private Swiss energy company and Tehran, the official Swissinfo news website reported.
The deal was signed in the Iranian capital earlier on Monday in the presence of the Swiss foreign minister, Micheline Calmy-Rey.
It covers the delivery of 5.5 billion cubic meters of gas per year through a pipeline by 2012, according to EGL, the Swiss company who signed the contract with National Iranian Gas Export Company.
The deal "sends the wrong message to Iran at a moment when Iran continues to defy United Nations Security Council resolutions" on the country's nuclear program, the U.S. embassy in Bern said in a statement.
The U.S. embassy added that the accord "violated the spirit of the sanctions."
But Swiss Foreign Minister Calmy-Rey said it was Switzerland's strategy to diversify its source of energy supplies. "We decrease our dependence, and the dependence of Europe, on Russian gas," she said.
Calmy-Rey also repeated on Monday that the natural gas accord breached neither UN nor U.S. sanctions, which forbid any investment in Iran's oil and gas sector worth more than 20 million U.S. dollars.
Switzerland currently buys its supplies in northern Europe (Norway, Netherlands, Germany), Algeria (through France) and Russia. Consumption of gas represents about 12 percent of Switzerland's energy needs, Swissinfo said.