Iranian oil revenues 'drop 45%' because of sanctions

Fahmideh gas refinery and storage facility in Iran (5 January 2012) International sanctions against Iran include a trade ban on its oil and gas exports

Iranian oil revenues have fallen around 45% in the last nine months because of Western sanctions, a leading Iranian politician says.

Gholam Reza Kateb, an MP on the national planning and budget committee, said the country's economy as a whole was in trouble.

In a further sign of the crisis, the oil ministry has stopped selling fuel to some airlines over unpaid bills.

Oil exports account for a majority of the Islamic republic's revenue.

Mr Kateb said the steep export drop was revealed in a parliament report by Oil Minister Rostam Qasemi.

"On the basis of the report, oil sales are down 40% and income has dropped 45% in the last nine months," Mr Kateb told the semi-official Isna news agency.

In recent weeks, the oil minister has insisted that Iran has successfully bypassed oil sanctions.

Meanwhile, a number of airlines have been forced to cancel their flights, the BBC's James Reynolds reports.

The national carrier, Iran Air, continues to operate, he adds.

While the dispute is expected to be resolved in the coming days, the flight cancellations are a clear sign of the problems facing Iran's economy, our correspondent says.

The exports are vital and have kept the religious government in money and power, he says.

The rial has reportedly lost more than 80% of its value since 2011 because of US-led trade sanctions over Iran's nuclear programme.

The US and EU accuse the country of aiming to build nuclear weapons. Iran, meanwhile, insists that it simply wishes to develop nuclear power stations.

International sanctions on Iran include a UN embargo on arms exports and nuclear technology as well as EU bans on most financial transactions as well as the purchase of crude oil. The US prohibits almost all trade with Iran.

Last month, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sacked the sole woman in his cabinet, Health Minister Marziyeh Vahid Dastjerdi, after she blamed the sanctions for causing medicine shortages.

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