International | Jul 5, 2018

First Vice President Says Iran's Oil Can Still Flow

Accra, July 3, (UPI/GNA) - Iran's first vice president said the U.S. government's efforts to force Tehran's customers to stop importing any of its oil by November is not realistic.

"U.S. sanctions would not be a straitjacket for Iran as the country would tap various methods to render the embargoes ineffective," First Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri was quoted as saying by the Iranian Oil Ministry's news website SHANA.

Jahangiri's comments late Monday followed a briefing on Iran's oil from Brian Hook, the director of policy planning at the U.S. State Department. U.S. President Donald Trump in May pulled his country out of a U.N.-backed agreement with Iran that offered sanctions relief in exchange for peaceful nuclear commitments.

By early August, U.S. sanctions go into force on Iran's automotive industry and its trade in gold. Sanctions on the country's energy sector, its trade in oil and transactions with the Central Bank of Iran snap back into place Nov. 6.

Hook said the aim is to zero out Iranian oil exports by then, but offered some room for manoeuvring.

"We are prepared to work with countries that are reducing their imports on a case-by-case basis," he said Monday. "But as with our other sanctions, we are not looking to grant waivers or licenses."

Iran is exporting about 2 million barrels of oil per day. During the weekend, Trump said Saudi Arabia agreed to help cover the loss by tapping into some of its 2 million bpd in spare capacity. The Iranian government countered that any independent action from Riyadh would violate the principles of a multilateral deal through the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to control output.

Jahangiri added that Iran could get around some of the U.S. pressure through effective trade planning. One of the plans under consideration, he said, is a bartering mechanism.

The Iranian government said China, which isn't as exposed to U.S. sanctions as other countries, remains interested in importing oil. European leaders, meanwhile, have shown willingness to figure out a way to keep the nuclear agreement in place without the United States.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani arrived Tuesday in Switzerland and later heads to Austria, which took over the rotating presidency of the European Union during the weekend. Speaking from the Swiss capital, the Iranian president said it was illogical to bow to the unilateral pressure from the United States.

"Iranians have never surrendered to foreign pressure and will never do so," he said.

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