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'Ghost' Tankers, Bartering, and Middlemen: Iran's Playbook For Selling Oil In The Face Of U.S. Sanctions
May 07, 2019
By Frud Bezhan


The United States has pledged to cut Iran's oil exports to "zero," denying Tehran a key source of revenue through tough sanctions and the threat of stiff penalties to potential buyers.

But economists say that while the U.S. measures will hit Iranian oil sales, which account for 70 percent of the country's revenues, they will not completely halt them.

Iran can skirt U.S. sanctions and still sell oil through different avenues, say analysts, who predict that Tehran's petroleum exports will not fall more than 30 percent from current levels.

Ahead of May 8, the first anniversary of U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from a controversial 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran, an Iranian official said the country would circumvent renewed sanctions by selling oil on the "gray market."

Under the 2015 deal between Iran and world powers, Tehran was to curb its nuclear program in exchange for relief from international sanctions. The United States reimposed crippling economic sanctions on Tehran months after pulling out of the agreement, dealing a major blow to Iran's crisis-hit economy. Last month, Washington ended waivers for major importers of Iranian oil.

Even if Iran can sidestep U.S. sanctions, it is unclear if buyers want to risk huge penalties to buy its oil, say analysts.

'Off The Grid'
One tactic previously employed by Iran to bypass U.S. sanctions and sell its oil is through the use of "ghost" tankers.

Iran has hidden the destination of its oil sales by strategically switching off oil tankers' AIS signal, an automatic tracking system. This has made it difficult to pinpoint the origin, route, and the date a tanker is loaded and unloaded.

Other tactics used by Iran at sea include ship-to-ship oil transfers and discharging and loading oil at remote ports. Tehran has also been known to reflag its tankers and use documents from other countries to mask their ships' origins.

Iran was exporting around 2.5 million barrels of oil a day in April 2018, the month before Trump withdrew the United States from the nuclear deal. Since U.S. sanctions on Iran’s oil industry were reinstated in November, Iranian oil exports have decreased by more than half to around 1.1 million barrels per day (bpd).

Scott Lucas, an Iran expert at Birmingham University in Britain and the editor of the EA World View website, says some industry experts estimate that Iran is exporting up to 400,000 barrels of oil per day above officially acknowledged levels through methods such as turning off transponders on tankers. Lucas says industry experts predict that U.S. sanctions will further decrease Iran's current official oil exports by up to 20 or 30 percent.

"The U.S. aim is not an embargo with action to intercept and stop tankers," says Lucas. "Instead, Washington will aim at the financial networks supporting transactions."

Scott adds that these "off-the-grid movements" may give some relief from tightening U.S. sanctions, but they increase the risk of Tehran being seen as the "culprit rather than the victim in this showdown."

Iran has the support of the other signatories of the nuclear deal -- Russia, China, France, Britain, and Germany -- which have criticized Washington for unilaterally pulling out of the deal and reimposing sanctions, despite multiple reports by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that Tehran was complying with the agreement.

Ditch The Dollar
U.S. sanctions prevent Iran -- and those who want to do business with them -- from dealing in U.S. dollars, the global reserve currency, and from using SWIFT, the U.S.-dominated global-transaction network. Oil is also priced and traded in U.S. dollars.

"You can use your own currency," he told reporters in New York in September, saying countries were making deals with Tehran to use their own currencies in bilateral trade. "Sell stuff in your own currency, buy stuff in the other country's currency, and at the end of a specific period, balance it out in a non-dollar currency. It's quite possible. And may even be profitable."

Iran has used this tactic before when it was under sanctions, dealing in euros and the Chinese yuan.

But Scott says deals in currencies like the yuan or the Indian rupee are "not attractive because the currencies are nonconvertible or are limited in the international financial system."

Oil For Goods
Tehran can also reach barter deals with countries.

Russia has said it would buy at least 100,000 barrels a day of Iranian oil. Moscow has offered to pay for the oil with Russian machinery and food, according to Russia's Oil Ministry. Moscow has also pledged to invest in the Iranian oil sector as Western companies draw back.

In 2017, Russia implemented an oil-for-goods program with cash-strapped Iran, with Moscow buying Iranian oil in exchange for Russian goods, including oil pumps and pipes, gas-drilling equipment, metal and wood products, leather, and wheat. The two countries have been working on oil-for-goods deals worth up to $20 billion.

Many buyers of Iranian oil are vulnerable to U.S. sanctions because they use the U.S. banking system. But Russia and China are less vulnerable because their economies and financial systems are less connected to the United States than Western countries.

Iran has previously had barter deals with China and India. At the time, Iranian critics of government policies maintained that bartering partners were selling useless merchandise to Iran.

"Whenever there are excessive regulations or sanctions, black markets spontaneously emerge as a way out from under the regulations and sanctions," says Steve Hanke, an economist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. "So, for a sanctioned seller, there is a way out. But it comes at a price: lower profits from sales."

Going Private
Iran also has the option of selling oil through the Iran Energy Exchange (IRENEX), a rial-based, domestic oil exchange.

Selling oil is in the hands of the state, but to skirt U.S. sanctions the government last year began to sell to private buyers through IRENEX.

On April 30, Iran offered 1 million barrels of oil on IRENEX to attract new, private buyers.

Naysan Rafati, an Iran analyst at the International Crisis Group, says the exchange keeps the details of the buyers private because they might be targeted by U.S. penalties.

But the domestic energy exchange has not proven to be successful. Fars news agency reported on April 30 that only 70,000 barrels were sold at $60 a barrel, lower than the price on world markets.

Naysan says that, fundamentally, Iran must grapple with the question of demand.

"We will have to see what appetite, if any, those companies doing the buying have for possible penalties by a U.S. administration that's clearly made this a key policy objective," he says.


 

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Iran President Rouhani: EU failure in INSTEX (oil and Banking trade) after 60 days period will led to cancelling enrichment level, China failure in JCPOA (Iran nuclear deal) start work on Arak reactor IR40 after 60 days period will meet with father action


 

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India gives in to US pressure, fully stops import of Iran oil
Indian decision comes amid pressure from the Trump administration, which had called on India and 7 other countries to stop the import of Iranian crude.
by Nayanima Basu and Mahua Venkatesh
9 May, 2019


Although Iran is a key ally for India, it has reduced oil imports significantly over the past few years. | Ali Mohammadi/Bloomberg

New Delhi: India has completely stopped the import of oil from Iran under pressure from the US, multiple sources have told ThePrint. New Delhi is, however, negotiating with Washington to allow it to procure pending shipments for which contracts have already been signed with Iran.

India’s decision is in adherence with a directive from the Trump administration, which called for New Delhi to end to all its import of crude and petroleum products from Tehran.

India and seven other countries that rely on Iran for their energy needs were granted a six-month waiver by the US last November after Washington walked out of the nuclear deal and imposed multiple sanctions on the Rouhani regime, particularly over crude exports that are the mainstay of the Iranian economy.

The deadline for the so-called waiver, also called the Significant Reduction Exemption (SRE), expired on 2 May, according to official sources.

“We have some slack for shipments on the high seas or where contracts were already concluded for offtake, so we are negotiating with the US to at least allow those to go through,” said an official who is involved in the talks and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The official said the discussions are going on with the US government but nothing positive has yet come out of the talks.

According to another official from the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, however, India is hopeful that the existing contracts and orders that were already placed with Iran will not be halted.

While Iran, which continues to rely on oil sales to run its economy, has been under sanctions for several years, India has always found a way to manoeuvre around them. This, however, is the first time that India has completely stopped procuring oil from the country, sources added.

Oil on the way
Sources said that at present, two vessels loaded in April with 4 million barrels of crude from Iran are expected to reach India this month. Of these, one is expected to reach the Paradip port in Odisha and the other Kochi in Kerala.

The official from the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas added that India had been taking steps to reduce its imports from Iran since the US walked out of the Iran nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

New Delhi has considerably reduced its oil imports from Iran over the last six months.

India has been Iran’s second largest customer after China. New Delhi imports 80 per cent of its crude oil requirements and Iran accounts for 13 per cent of these imports, according to the oil ministry.

But between January and April this year, crude imports from Iran have gone down by over 40 per cent. In April, India’s imports from Iran dropped by 57 per cent compared to the corresponding month in the previous year, according to data by the Directorate General of Commercial Intelligence and Statistics (DGCIS).

Consumption, however, is rising. In 2018-19, India’s total oil consumption was 211.6 million metric tonnes compared to 206.2 MMT in the previous year — an increase of 2.7 per cent, according to official data.

US to ‘make up’ for Iran
While the Modi government has downplayed the adverse impact of its decision of not procuring oil from Iran, sources said this will impact supplies going forward.

Sources added that the US is taking all steps to make up for the supply shortage that India may face due to the absence of Iranian oil. The US is now pushing India to increase its purchase of shale oil.

This was among the main agenda for which Alice Wells, US principal deputy assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asia, visited India last month before the waiver expired. Washington is presently also undertaking measures to keep the international prices of crude under control.

India, meanwhile, is also looking at Saudi Arabia and UAE to come to its rescue.

There appears to be some positive news on that front. “We have always assured India that UAE is ready to cover any shortfall in its oil imports,” UAE Ambassador to India, Ahmed Al Banna, told ThePrint. “We have stood beside them in the past as well when there were embargos on Iran. We are working with our Indian partners closely.”

According to oil ministry data, Iraq is the top supplier of crude to India followed by Saudi Arabia. Iran remains the third largest supplier of oil despite a reduction in inbound shipment. Besides these three, UAE and Venezuela have also supplied a large chunk of India’s crude requirements.

Sources said an increased amount of imports are likely from Saudi Arabia from June. But the quantum has not been decided yet as all these issues will be clearer once a new government takes charge.

 

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Rouhani's scolding shows that U.S. sanctions are hitting Iran hard
By Struan Stevenson
MAY 10, 2019

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks at the United Nations last September. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo


May 10 (UPI) -- Queen Gertrude, responding to the banal insincerity and over-acting of a character in Shakespeare's play Hamlet, famously says: "The lady doth protest too much, methinks."
Shakespeare's famous quote came to mind when Iran's President Hassan Rouhani took to the international airwaves this week to scold the Americans over their withdrawal from the nuclear deal. Rouhani warned the remaining signatories to the deal -- the United Kingdom, France, Germany, China and Russia -- that Iran will resume enriching uranium in 60 days unless they take action to protect it from U.S. sanctions, a virtually impossible request.

Rouhani's protests reveal two interesting things.

Firstly, that U.S. sanctions are biting hard and threaten to topple the theocratic regime. Despite the Iranian president's previous assurance that his country was "immunized against U.S. sanctions," the plummeting economy and the collapse of the rial, the Iranian currency, combined with the nationwide protests by striking workers that have continued for the past 16 months, are a clear sign of a failed government that is now desperately searching for help.

Secondly, the threat to resume enriching uranium exposes the truth behind Iran's nuclear program and shows clearly that it was never designed for peaceful purposes, but was always aimed at the production of nuclear weapons. The Trump administration's immediate response was to send a U.S. aircraft carrier and a bomber task force to the Middle East in what U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton described as "a clear and unmistakable message" to Iran.

The theocratic regime has long maintained that its nuclear program was benign, legal and authorized by its membership as a non-nuclear weapon state in the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which guarantees its members the right "to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes." However, in 2003, the National Council for Resistance in Iran, the main democratic opposition to the regime, revealed concrete intelligence that proved Iran was enriching uranium to a level compatible with the construction of nuclear weapons. It was also developing advanced missile delivery systems that could be used for this purpose. The revelation sent shock waves around the world.

In a bid to secure his foreign policy presidential legacy, U.S. President Barack Obama pushed through the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or the Iran nuclear deal, which was signed by the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, China and Russia in Vienna on July 14, 2015. It was widely promoted by the United States and EU officials as a foreign policy breakthrough.

In fact, the deal was a flagrant act of appeasement, lifting sanctions and releasing over $150 billion in frozen assets. Ludicrously, Obama even agreed to a demand that military sites inside Iran would be exempted from routine inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency, despite intelligence that indicated much of the nuclear weapons and missile program was being developed in these top-secret military sites.

The JCPOA provided a windfall for the theocratic dictatorship, whose biggest export is terror, enabling it to arm its foreign allies and proxies such as Bashar al-Assad in Syria, the Houthi rebels in Yemen, the brutal Shi'ia militias in Iraq and the terrorist Hezbollah in Lebanon.


Donald Trump decried the nuclear deal with Iran as "the worst deal ever" during his presidential campaign and vowed the United States would withdraw from it. As president, he fulfilled that election pledge, restored tough sanctions and last month even listed Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps as a foreign terrorist organization. The IRGC, which is the equivalent of the regime's Gestapo, controls most of the Iranian economy, so its blacklisting by the Americans makes it virtually impossible for Western businesses to trade with Iran.

But Rouhani's protests also lay bare the lies and duplicity of a regime that pleads for economic help while its embassies in Europe are used as bomb factories and cells for plotting assassinations and terror attacks on European soil. The arrest of Iranian agents in Europe who were planning assassinations and terror attacks on members of the Iranian opposition are evidence of this regime's malign intentions.

The diplomat, Assadollah Assadi, was a leading Ministry of Intelligence and Security agent, posing as a member of the diplomatic staff in the Iranian Embassy in Vienna. He allegedly handed over a bomb to three other Iranian agents with instructions that they should attack the NCRI rally taking place in Paris in June, attended by over 100,000 men, women and children. A similar bomb plot in Albania against the opposition, the People's Mojahedin of Iran (MEK/PMOI), was thwarted by the police and led to the expulsion of the Iranian ambassador and his first secretary from the Iranian Embassy in Tirana.

A regime that sends its diplomatic staff to kill and maim innocent civilians in Europe has removed itself from the norms of civilized behavior.
Rouhani's protests should be treated with the scorn that they deserve. The United Kingdom, France and Germany should follow America's example -- withdraw from the nuclear deal and impose tough sanctions on this rotten dictatorship, hastening its impending demise.

Struan Stevenson is the coordinator of the Campaign for Iran Change. He was a member of the European Parliament representing Scotland (1999-2014), president of the Parliament's Delegation for Relations with Iraq (2009-14) and chairman of the Friends of a Free Iran Intergroup (2004-14). He is an international lecturer on the Middle East and is also president of the European Iraqi Freedom Association.

 

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Iran President Rouhani: EU failure in INSTEX (oil and Banking trade) after 60 days period will led to cancelling enrichment level, China failure in JCPOA (Iran nuclear deal) start work on Arak reactor IR40 after 60 days period will meet with father action


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China calls halt to Iran oil orders
10 May 2019
REUTERS

Beijing has criticized the unilateral US sanctions on Iran, but Chinese refiners are erring on the side of caution in the face of the bans. (Reuters)


  • The US has not renewed any exemptions from sanctions on Iran, taking a tougher line than expected on the expiry of the waivers
  • Sinopec and CNPC have skipped bookings for cargoes loading in May as the companies were worried that taking oil from Iran could invoke US sanctions

SINGAPORE: China Petrochemical Corp. (Sinopec Group) and China National Petroleum Corp. (CNPC), the country’s top state-owned refiners, are skipping Iranian oil purchases for loading in May after Washington ended sanction waivers to turn up pressure on Tehran, three people with knowledge of the matter said.

The US has not renewed any exemptions from sanctions on Iran, taking a tougher line than expected on the expiry of the waivers. The waivers were granted last November to buyers of Iranian oil.

China is Iran’s largest oil customer with imports of 475,000 barrels per day (bpd) in the first quarter of this year, according to Chinese customs data.

Two of the sources said Sinopec and CNPC, who together account for over 90% of China's oil imports from Iran have skipped bookings for cargoes loading in May as the companies were worried that taking oil from Iran could invoke US sanctions and cut them out of the global financial system.
A third source said Sinopec, which buys the majority of China’s Iranian oil imports, does not wish to breach a long-term supply contract, but has opted to suspend booking new cargoes for now due to the sanction worries.

All those with knowledge of the matter requested anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the topic.

Of the five supertankers that loaded Iranian crude in April for China, two have discharged, while another two are waiting off Ningbo and Zhoushan in eastern China to discharge, according to Refinitiv data and Refinitiv analyst Emma Li. A fifth tanker is heading to Shuidong in southern Guangdong province.

The sources said they did not know how long the suspensions will last.

Both Sinopec and CNPC declined to comment. The National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) did not immediately respond to an email from Reuters seeking comment.

The two firms took a similar move last October by skipping shipments for November, before Washington reimposed sanctions on Iran’s oil exports to push the Islamic Republic to renegotiate a deal to stop its nuclear and ballistic missile programs and curb its regional influence.

They later resumed bookings after the US granted waivers to China and other seven global clients of Iranian oil, and purchased additional cargoes to make up the delayed shipments, according to the third source and trade flow data.

“There are no nominations so far, but companies are trying to find some solution, such as offering to top up volumes in later months,” said the source.

Sinopec agreed in 2012 to lift an average of about 265,000 bpd oil from Iran in a long-term deal that expires end of 2019.

While Beijing has criticized the unilateral US sanctions on Iran and the end to the exemptions, companies are erring on the side of caution unless they receive a specific government mandate to keep ordering oil from Tehran, the first two sources said.

CNPC, whose Iranian oil comes mostly from its investments at two Iranian oil fields, is also skipping imports for this month, said one of those sources.

“For now it’s just not worth the risks as the volume is very small in (the company’s) overall purchases,” said the source.

China calls halt to Iran oil orders
 

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Iran's Rouhani calls for unity to face 'unprecedented' U.S. pressure
May 12, 2019

DUBAI (Reuters) - President Hassan Rouhani called on Saturday for unity among Iran’s political factions to overcome conditions which he said may be harder than those during the 1980s war with Iraq, state media reported, as the country faces tightening U.S. sanctions.

U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday urged Iran’s leaders talk with him about giving up their nuclear program and said he could not rule out a military confrontation.U.S.

Trump made the offer as he increased economic and military pressure on Iran, moving to cut off all Iranian oil exports this month while beefing up the U.S. Navy and Air Force presence in the Gulf. Washington also approved a new deployment of Patriot missiles to the Middle East, a U.S. official said on Friday.

“Today, it cannot be said whether conditions are better or worse than the (1980-88) war period, but during the war we did not have a problem with our banks, oil sales or imports and exports, and there were only sanctions on arms purchases,” Rouhani said, according to the state news agency IRNA.

“The pressures by enemies is a war unprecedented in the history of our Islamic revolution... but I do not despair and have great hope for the future and believe that we can move past these difficult conditions provided that we are united,” Rouhani told activists from various factions.

Hardliners have criticized Rouhani after Trump withdrew from Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, which Rouhani supported, and reimposed sanctions last year. The pragmatic president has also been abandoned by some of his moderate allies.

Separately, a media court on Saturday suspended the weekly Seda (Voice), the semi-official news agency ISNA reported, after the reformist magazine published an issue that included articles warning about the possibility of war with the United States.

“At the Crossroads of War and Peace, have moderates lost or will they again save Iran from war?” the main headline on the front page read against a photograph of U.S. Navy warships.

On social media, hardliners attacked the magazine as “Trump’s voice”, suggesting its warning about the danger of war amounted to a call for talks with the United States, the Islamic Republic’s arch enemy.

“At the height of America’s political, economic and media war against the Iranian nation, an Iranian publication supplements the enemy’s media operations inside the country,” the hardline-led news agency Fars wrote in a comment.

Iran has dismissed the U.S. military build up as “psychological warfare” designed to intimidate it.

Reporting by Dubai newsroom; Editing by Marguerita Choy

 

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Iran President Rouhani: EU failure in INSTEX (oil and Banking trade) after 60 days period will led to cancelling enrichment level, China failure in JCPOA (Iran nuclear deal) start work on Arak reactor IR40 after 60 days period will meet with father action
 

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Iran sentences British Council worker to 10 years for spying for UK
Reuters
May 13, 2019

LONDON: Iran said on Monday it had sentenced an Iranian woman to 10 years prison for spying for Britain, as tension rises between Tehran and some Western countries over its nuclear and missile programs.

“An Iranian who was in charge of Iran desk in the British Council and was cooperating with Britain’s intelligence agency... was sentenced to 10 years in prison after clear confessions,” Gholamhossein Esmaili, a judiciary spokesman, said on the state television.

Esmaili said the woman was in charge of projects for “cultural infiltration” in Iran. He did not identify her, but said she was a student in Britain before being recruited by the British Council.

Esmaili said the woman had been in custody for almost a year. He did not specify whether she held British nationality.

The British Foreign Office did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment. The British Council is Britain’s cultural agency overseas.

The arrest of Iranians accused of espionage has increased since Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said last year there had been “infiltration” of Western agents in the country.

Iran has been increasingly at odds with Western countries since the United States withdrew from a deal Tehran signed with global powers to curb its nuclear program in return for the lifting of sanctions.

Britain is a signatory to the nuclear deal. Like other European signatories, it supports maintaining the deal.

The United States has ratcheted up sanctions against Iran this month, revoking waivers that had permitted some countries to continue buying Iranian oil. Tehran has responded by reducing curbs on its nuclear program, although steps it has taken so far stop short of violating the agreement.

 

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Iran insists on ramping up oil sales to stay in nuclear pact: sources
May 13, 2019
Bozorgmehr Sharafedin, Robin Emmott, John Irish

LONDON/BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Iran insists on exporting at least 1.5 million barrels per day (bpd) of oil, triple May’s expected levels under U.S. sanctions, as a condition for staying in an international nuclear deal, sources with knowledge of Iran-EU talks said.

The figure was communicated in recent meetings between Iranian and Western officials, including Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, but has not been set down in writing, four European diplomatic sources said.

The United States reimposed sanctions in November on exports of Iranian oil after U.S. President Donald Trump last spring unilaterally pulled out of the 2015 accord between Iran and six world powers to curb Tehran’s nuclear program.

In an attempt to reduce Iran’s crude exports to zero, Washington ended at the beginning of May waivers that had allowed the top buyers of Iranian oil to continue their imports for six months.

The sanctions have already more than halved Iranian oil exports to 1 million bpd or less, from a peak of 2.8 million bpd last year. Exports could drop to as low as 500,000 bpd from May, an Iranian official told Reuters this month.

Iran has threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz - a major oil-shipping route - and disrupt crude shipments from neighboring countries if Washington succeeds in forcing all countries to stop buying Iranian oil.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei set out last year a series of conditions for European powers if they wanted Tehran to stay in the nuclear deal, including continued purchases of Iranian oil.

Khamenei did not specify which minimum level of oil sales Iran would accept to stick with the deal, or keep the Strait open.

According to one European Union official, the Iranians have not been specific, but they wanted to ensure production returned to pre-sanctions levels. Other sources said Iran’s demand seemed to be in a general range of 1.5 million to 2 million bpd.

“Zarif said specifically that they want to sell 2 million barrels of oil (per day), basically the level Iran was exporting before Trump withdrew from the deal,” said a source present at the New York meeting in which the minister made the statement.

“But I don’t think it is a serious demand. It isn’t possible and the Iranians know it isn’t possible.”

Zarif also said during the same visit to New York in April that Iran could only sell 500,000 to 700,000 bpd of oil.

An Iranian foreign ministry spokesman was quoted by state news agency IRNA as saying on Tuesday: “Iran’s demands have been clearly stated in our president’s letter on May 8 to the leaders of the remaining countries in the JCPOA (nuclear deal).”

“Paying attention to these reports, which are based on incomplete and imprecise conjectures, is not constructive and can undermine the conditions
needed for serious diplomacy,” spokesman Abbas Mousavi said when asked about this Reuters story.

REVENUES AND EXPENSES
Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said last week that for Tehran to stay in the nuclear deal, Iranian oil sales should reach their pre-sanctions level or at least “start the process of returning” to such a level.

Araqchi also said another Iranian condition was to have full access to oil-export revenues, and to spend them as it pleased, not only on food and medicine as proposed by EU countries.

According to Iran’s budget for this year, one third of the government’s income - 1,425 trillion rials ($33.9 billion) - should come from oil and gas exports.

The budget was based on a forecast crude oil price of $50-$54 per barrel and a U.S. dollar rate of 57,000 rials, meaning the Iranian economy could remain sustainable if exports came to at least 1.5 million bpd.

EU officials also estimate Iran needs to sell 1.5 million bpd to keep its economy afloat. A drop below 1 million bpd could bring hardship and economic crisis.

Portions of Iran’s oil sales go to the country’s sovereign wealth fund and to the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) for production expenses and other costs.

President Hassan Rouhani this year reduced the share of oil revenues allocated to the wealth fund from 30% to 20% due to expectations of lower exports as U.S. sanctions bite.

The government also earns revenues by exporting gas to a number of neighboring countries.

Iran’s oil exports during previous sanctions in 2012 fell to as low as about 1 million bpd, pushing up inflation. Iranian officials have vowed to prevent similar price spikes in future.

The International Monetary Fund, however, expects tighter U.S. sanctions could push inflation in Iran to 37% this year, the highest since 1995.

UNIVERSAL OBLIGATION
Once Europe’s biggest supplier, Iran has seen its exports gradually cut off from European buyers.

China - Iran’s largest oil customer with imports of 475,000 bpd in the first quarter of this year - has also stopped buying from Iran after Washington chose not to renew sanctions waivers.

“The real problem for Iran is oil exports, but that’s a question the Iranians have to ask the Chinese and Indians,” a senior European diplomat said.

“The survival of this accord is a universal obligation and not just a European one as the Iranians keep claiming ... If we want to save the deal, the Chinese have to continue buying the oil.”

While Beijing has criticised the U.S. sanctions, companies are erring on the side of caution. China Petrochemical Corp (Sinopec Group) and China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC), the country’s top state-owned refiners, have skipped Iranian oil purchases for loading in May.

Iran has said it will sell oil on a “grey market” to evade U.S. sanctions, without giving details.

One year after Washington quit the deal, Iran announced on Wednesday steps to relax some restrictions on its nuclear program.

In letters to the deal’s remaining signatories - Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China - Rouhani gave them a 60-day ultimatum to protect his country’s interests or face a resumption of high-level Iranian enrichment of uranium.

But the letter did not detail Iran’s economic demands, specifically how much oil it wants to sell, one diplomat said.

“They (Iranians) took a small step away from the deal. I think they would be satisfied with a small, reciprocal step from Europe,” another source said. “The reciprocal step wouldn’t be about oil. I don’t think there is much to do on oil.”

 

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Iran halts some commitments under nuclear deal
May 15, 2019


LONDON (Reuters) - Iran has officially stopped some commitments under a 2015 nuclear deal with world powers following an order from its national security council, an informed official in the country’s atomic energy body told the ISNA news agency on Wednesday.

Last week, Iran notified China, France, Germany, Russia and the United Kingdom of its decision to halt some commitments under the nuclear deal, a year after the United States unilaterally withdrew from the accord and re-imposed sanctions.

Under the nuclear deal, Tehran was allowed to produce low-enriched uranium with a 300-kg limit, and produce heavy water with a stock capped around 130 tonnes. Tehran could ship the excess amounts out of the country for storage or sale.

The official said Iran has no limit from now for production of enriched uranium and heavy water.


Iran’s initial moves do not appear to violate the nuclear deal yet. But Iran has warned that unless the world powers protect Iran’s economy from U.S. sanctions within 60 days, Iran would start enriching uranium at higher level.

The European Union and the foreign ministers of Germany, France and Britain said they were still committed to the deal but would not accept ultimatums from Tehran.

The deal also caps the level of purity to which Iran can enrich uranium at 3.67 percent, far below the 90 percent of weapons grade. It is also well below the 20 percent level to which Iran enriched uranium before the deal.


Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Tuesday that Tehran does not seek war with the United States despite mounting tensions between the two arch-enemies over Iranian nuclear capabilities and its missile program.

Khamenei also said Tehran would not negotiate with the United States on another nuclear deal.

Reporting by Bozorgmehr Sharafedin; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Michael Perry


 

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Iran President Rouhani publicly announced U.S government diplomatic Phone numbers for compensation with U.S President passed by Swiss embassy

White House passes phone number to Swiss, in case Iran wants to call

 

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British PM May deeply concerned by jailing of woman in Iran
May 15, 2019

LONDON (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Theresa May said on Wednesday she was deeply concerned about the jailing of a British Council worker in Iran on espionage charges.

Iran said on Monday it had sentenced an Iranian woman to 10 years prison for spying for Britain, as tension rises between Tehran and some Western countries over its nuclear and missile programs.

“It’s utterly shocking. I’m deeply concerned by the turn of events,” May told parliament, adding that the woman was working for a legitimate organization that was trying to foster better relations between countries.

“The Foreign Secretary is taking this issue up, the government will press the case and the concerns that have been raised.”

Reporting by Alistair Smout; editing by Stephen Addison

 

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