Iran oil sales to European countries not halted: minister

AFP, Thursday 19 Apr 2012

Iran's oil exports to Europe countries except France and Britain have not been halted despite some financial problems

Iranian Oil Minister Rostam Qasemi said on Thursday that oil sales to Germany, Greece and Spain had not been halted as reported by state media last week.

"We are still selling oil to all of Europe except Britain and France," Qasemi told a press conference at the International Oil, Gas, Refining and Petrochemical Exhibition, held in northern Tehran.

Two Iranian state-owned broadcasters, Al-Alam and Press TV, last week reported that oil exports to Germany, Spain and Greece had been halted, expanding on a February decision to stop oil sales to France and Britain.

The apparent moves by OPEC's second-biggest producer came in response to new sanctions by the European Union which were announced in January and will become fully effective in July.

Qasemi contradicted the television reports, which also claimed that exports to Italy could soon likewise be stopped but which did not identify the sources of their information.

"Exports to France and Britain have stopped. For the other countries the exports continue, although there are some financial problems in certain cases," linked to difficulties in transferring money, he said on Thursday.

"We have not halted exports to Greece," with which "there are some financial problems that are in the process of being resolved," the minister added.

"But if Europe does not cancel its oil sanctions... we will cease to sell them oil," he said.

Tehran since last year has been facing growing problems of payments for its oil from its buyers, because of banking sanctions imposed by the United States and the EU against transactions in dollars or euros with Iran.

Iran also has stopped delivering oil to energy giant Anglo-Dutch Shell, one of its major Western buyers, due to late payments emanating from difficulties related to bank transfer, said Qasemi.

Shell, which owes one billion dollars to Iran according to specialised sites, is "seeking ways to pay us," the minister added.

West has developed since 2010 a set of tough economic sanctions against Iran to force Tehran to curb its controversial nuclear programme.

The EU has broken new ground by deciding in January to cease all purchases of Iranian crude from July 1.

The EU bought in 2011 some 500,000 barrels a day of Iranian oil, constituting 20 percent of Iran's exports, Italy, Spain and Greece being the main nations purchasing Iranian crude.

Madrid, however, announced last week it had stopped buying Iranian oil since late February.

Qasemi reiterated that Tehran would have "no problem selling (its) oil on world markets," adding that the Islamic republic has "signed contracts with new buyers," but he declined to identify the new customers.

"But if Europe does not cancel its sanctions... this will cause serious fluctuations (in the crude oil prices) on the market," warned Qasemi, adding that the rise in recent months was due to the announcement of the oil embargo of the EU.

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