Iran signs private contracts to export oil
Tehran, September 16, 2012
Iran has signed agreements to sell four million barrels of oil through private companies, an official was quoted as saying on Saturday, in an attempt to avoid Western embargoes.
European Union and US sanctions aimed at stopping Iran's nuclear programme ban all imports of Iranian oil and apply to state-run and private firms, yet Iranian officials say private sellers can sidestep those measures.
The Western measures have dented Iran's oil exports. European Union sanctions also prevent Europe's marine insurance sector, which dominates the industry, from insuring tankers carrying Iranian oil.
A private consortium has signed two agreements with foreign buyers to sell about four million barrels of Iranian crude, said Hassan Khosrojerdi, head of Iran's oil products exporters' union.
"With the agreement and the defined new mechanism, these two crude oil shipments will be delivered in the ... Gulf to foreign buyers," Khosrojerdi was quoted as saying by the Mehr news agency, without giving further details.
Private companies had succeeded in exporting some of the country's oil, Khosrojerdi was quoted as saying last week. Until now, the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) had been solely responsible for exporting the Islamic Republic's crude.
But Khosrojerdi also complained on Saturday that Iran's central bank, Iran's main conduit for oil revenues, had not properly approved and communicated a financial mechanism for the sale of oil by the private sector.
"The private sector ... cannot take any serious action to export oil without the approval of this financial mechanism by the Central Bank of Iran," Khosrojerdi was quoted as saying, giving no further details.
Iran's central bank is under sanction by the United States, and banks that do business with it can be frozen out of U.S. financial markets.
Iran also denied on Saturday that Turkey sharply increased its imports last month of Iranian crude in the face of the Western embargo, saying its exports had held constant.
Around 200,000 barrels per day (bpd) of Iranian crude were discharged at Turkey's import terminals Aliaga and Tutunciflik in August, data from a shipping source and AIS Live ship tracking on Reuters showed earlier this month.
That was a four-fold increase from Ankara's imports of Iranian oil in July of 48,000 bpd, a two and a half year low.
But Iran's representative to the oil exporter group Opec denied the jump on Saturday and said such reports were politically motivated.
"By announcing a multi-fold jump in our exports to one country, they want to create sensitivities," Mohammad Ali Khatibi was quoted as saying by the Iranian Students' News Agency (ISNA).
"Our exports have a constant flow, and statistics giving evidence of a sudden quadrupling or quartering of exports are wrong," he added.-Reuters