Speaking on Thursday during his three-day tour of southern Iran, President Rouhani was blunt:

There are problems in sections of the country’s oil industry that must be resolved and we cannot be patient for their resolution. From this regard, it is not important whether these problems are resolved with reliance on internal capacity or aid from the outside.

The message to the world’s companies — including “Western” firms — involved with oil and gas exploration: we are open for business.

Since last August, just after the President’s inauguration, Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh has indicated that he would like the return of the international companies, who almost all withdrew from Iranian projects in the last four years.

Last month, the head of Italy’s ENI, Paolo Scaroni, met Zanganeh in Vienna. The Oil Minister said private discussions had also taken place with Royal Dutch Shell, Austria’s OMV, and Vitol, the world’s largest oil trader.

Following Rouhani’s speech on Thursday, Zanganeh set out the challenge for Iran, saying that — “due to problems emerging from sanctions” — production has been reduced to only 2 million barrels per day, its lowest level since the end of the Iran-Iraq War in 1988.

The Minister indicated the need for foreign expertise to ensure recovery:

The majority of oil fields in the country’s southern region are passing their second-half life, which in this regard, we require expert studies so the level of production does not decrease.

Also, many of our installations are old and need repair. For this reason, we must find our share in the global oil market and in this path increase oil recycling capacity and interaction with foreign and domestic universities.

We must overcome human capital problems in this industry and repair the old installations of joint fields.

(hat tip to Iran Tracker for translations)