The Chinese tycoon behind a failed venture last year to purchase a large swath of Icelandic wilderness could instead be permitted to lease part of the land for 40 years, the industry ministry said Friday.
Iceland last year denied a request by Huang Nubo -- founder of private property firm Zhongkun Group -- to buy 300 square kilometres (200 square miles) of land in northeastern Iceland for a tourist resort and to create Europe's biggest nature reserve.
But on Friday, a committee representing Iceland's ministries of economy, finance and industry recommended that the government approve a deal allowing him to instead lease two to three square kilometres of land in the same area "for hotel building and various tourist facilities," said industry ministry spokesman Thorir Hrafnsson.
"Now we're talking about a lease and the size has shrunk considerably" he told AFP, stressing that Industry Minister Oddny Hardardottir had yet to give the deal a green light.
"The minister has yet to decide whether to say yes or no," he said, adding that she was expected to reach a decision within the next week or so.
Huang, whose property company Zhongkun Group owns resorts and tourist facilities across China and the world, had last year offered to buy the area known as Grimsstadir a Fjoellum for about $10 million and had wanted to invest about $200 million (150 million euros).
But Interior Minister Oegmundur Jonasson blocked the deal, given the size of the partially government-owned land plot he wanted to buy and citing a law barring land purchases by people or companies from outside Iceland and Scandinavia.
In December, Huang slammed Jonasson as "a racist", lamenting to AFP that he was "politicising a business deal."
He also said at the time he could accept reducing the area he acquired in Iceland to "a few dozen square kilometres, but not just one or two."