JOHANNESBURG - South Africa denied on Friday that it had been pressured by MTN Group into backing Tehran's nuclear program and aiding its military when the Johannesburg-based mobile operator was bidding for a telephone license in Iran.
"South Africa's foreign policy is independent and it cannot be influenced by anyone," Foreign Ministry spokesman Clayson Monyela said.South Africa has been reluctant to join Western nations in imposing sanctions on Iran, but has stopped short of open support for Tehran. Iran supplies a quarter of South Africa's crude supply.
MTN, Africa's biggest mobile operator, said on Thursday it was facing a potential lawsuit in a U.S. court from rival Turkcell over its license in Iran. MTN said Turkcell was set to say that MTN encouraged South Africa to take a favorable stance towards Iran's nuclear development program.
MTN dismissed the allegations as having no legal merit, but its shares still tumbled 3.7 percent, reflecting investor concern about its Iranian operation, which accounts for nearly 10 percent of total revenues.