Perusahaan Otomobil Nasional Bhd (Proton) is studying the feasibility of setting up an assembly plant in Iran.

Proton chief executive officer Tengku Datuk Mahaleel Tengku Ariff said the move followed an invitation from the Iranian government which was keen to see Proton expand further in the Middle East.

Proton was also considering setting up an assembly plant in Egypt but the plan had encountered some problems, Mahaleel said. Proton cars are now exported to 10 Middle East countries which took 3,391 units last year.

"It is too early to say much about the Iran project as it is still at the feasibility study stage," Mahaleel told reporters after a ceremony at which 246 Proton cars were handed over to Foreign Minister Datuk Syed Hamid Albar yesterday.

The 246 cars, comprising 60 Perdana V6s and 186 Wiras, will be used for the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) Foreign Ministers Conference to be held in Kuala Lumpur from June 27 to 30.

Mahaleel said the conference would provide Proton the opportunity to introduce its cars to more OIC member countries which were important markets for the company.

Currently, Proton exports about 1,300 cars to OIC member countries--Egypt, Libya, Jordan, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

"The conference will give good international exposure for Proton and will assist our efforts to export to new markets, especially to countries that may have heard of us but are still not familiar with our quality and engineering achievements," he said.

A total of 63 countries will be participating at the Kuala Lumpur conference which was last hosted by Malaysia 20 years ago.