Iran 'halts oil sales to France and Britain'

Lavan oil refinery, Iran - file pic Iran's oil industry is now subject to Western sanctions

Iran has halted oil sales to British and French companies, the nation's oil ministry has said.

A spokesman was reported as saying on the ministry's website that Iran would "sell our oil to new customers".

European Union member states had earlier agreed to stop importing Iranian crude from 1 July.

The move is intended to pressure Tehran to stop enriching uranium, which can be used for civilian nuclear purposes but also to build warheads.

Iran insists its nuclear programme is peaceful, but the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency says it has information suggesting Iran has carried out tests "relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device".

Sunday's statement on the oil ministry website was attributed to spokesman Ali Reza Nikzad Rahbar.

BBC world affairs correspondent Peter Biles says it appears to be another act of retaliation in the showdown between Iran and the West.

The French news agency AFP says the decision is not expected to have a big impact. Last year France bought only 3% of its oil - 58,000 barrels per day (b/d) - from Iran and the UK imported even less Iranian oil. A UK government official told the BBC there would be "no impact on UK energy security".

Some Iranian media had announced on Wednesday that Iran had stopped oil exports to the Netherlands, Greece, France, Portugal, Spain and Italy in retaliation for the EU's oil embargo, but this was later denied by the oil ministry.

The EU oil embargo, agreed last month, was phased so member states that were relatively dependent on Iranian crude - notably Greece, Spain and Italy - had enough time to find alternative sources.

The bloc currently buys about 20% of Iran's oil exports, which account for a majority of government revenue.

However, Iran's Oil Minister Rostam Qasemi said that a cut in exports to Europe would not hurt Tehran.

Oil industry sources quoted by Reuters news agency say Iran's top oil buyers in Europe have already started reducing purchases of Iranian crude.

Last year Iran supplied more than 700,000 barrels per day (b/d) to the EU and Turkey, but by the start of this year that had dropped to about 650,000 b/d, Reuters reported on Thursday.

France's energy giant Total has stopped buying Iranian crude and Royal Dutch Shell, one of the biggest purchasers of Iranian oil, has cut back sharply, market sources told Reuters.

According to Reuters estimates, Tupras of Turkey was the biggest European customer for Iranian oil in 2011, taking about 200,000 b/d, followed by Total (100,000 b/d), Shell (100,000 b/d), Hellenic of Greece (80,000 b/d) and Cepsa of Spain (70,000 b/d).

Graphic image showing Iran's top oil export destinations

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  • rate this

    Comment number 740.

    why is it fair to say that Iran want to make nuclear weapons? all the evidence that has been presented so far, including our own evidence and that of the USA's, has shown that Iran are not trying to gain nuclear weapons, only nuclear power, which is totally legal and legitimate. The only reason we're having this problem is because we are not prepared to accept any of the evidence available

  • rate this

    Comment number 720.

    I have my own question though why would an oil producing country need nuclear energy and all the risks associated with it. Plus they could have easily opted for other countries to enrich the Uranium for them but they alone have opted to ignore the Western Nation Concerns and have travelled down the dangerous path themeselves so you can't blame the media for that!

  • rate this

    Comment number 166.

    We need to get off the war wagon and start taslking to Iran, forget the USA lets not be drawn inmto the american ways we did with Iraq, we do not need another illegal war, Sudam told us he had no nuclear weapons but we invaded his country and destroyed it before we believed him, letys not fgall into the same trap with Iran, dialogue is bettewr than war We have tgoo many war mongerts in government

  • rate this

    Comment number 142.

    This is what happens when you rely too much on oil. If the world was serious, they would have had 50% alternate source by know

  • rate this

    Comment number 139.

    The proposition of Iran with Nuclear capability is of concern given what their president has openly said.. That aside we cannot really stop them so instead of creating irreparible rifts lets do something we dont often do and open dialogue with Iran to become an ally not an enemy.. with us on or offside Iran will have nuclear beit for energy, weapons or both.. We once had reasonable trade links


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