Iran unhappy with Moily's comment

With Petroleum Minister M Veerappa Moily openly batting for importing oil from sanctions-hit Iran by saying that domestic refiners enjoy greater margins on shipments from there, Government sources have rubbished apprehensions emanating from the Persian Gulf nation that these could be efforts of pressurising it into selling its crude at less than global market price.

Official sources said that there is “absolutely nothing” concrete in fears emanating from Iran that by giving such a statement New Delhi may ask Tehran to sell its oil at cheaper price since that country is hit by sanctions and is not left with much choice.

They added that Iran has been one of the most viable options for oil imports for India and this is the reason why the Government is keen to keep the shipments from the Islamic nation. In fact India has been maintaining the position that the sanctions imposed on Iran by the US and European Union (EU) don’t apply on New Delhi and therefore it won’t be cowed down by the restrictions on that country. “Our refiners enjoy much better margins as the cost is $2 less and that is why we are seriously engaging with Iran,” Moily had said last week.

According to media reports from Tehran, in response to Moily’s statement that crude from Iran costs India $2 less per barrel than global prices, Iran’s OPEC Governor Mohammad-Ali Khatibi was quoted as describing it as part of “psychological moves” to force the country to sell crude at low prices.

Iran’s news agency ILNA reported on June 17 that “Khatibi has rejected recent news about selling oil at discount prices to India”. It quoted Khatibi as saying that “some psychological moves have been started to damage Iran’s oil exports and force Iran to sell crude oil at low price”. The news report went on to quote him as saying that “Iran is selling oil based on official selling prices (OSP) to different buyers in Asia, Europe, and Africa”.

Though Moily is keen to maintain oil imports with Iran and even told media persons that during his meeting with his Iranian counterpart Rostam Ghasemi late last month (in New Delhi) an assurance was given to Tehran that New Delhi would continue to buy oil from there despite sanctions, shipments from there have only fallen in recent times. Moily had even told Ghasemi that Indian refiners would be encouraged to increase shipments from the Islamic nation. Industry sources however described reactions from Iran to Moily’s statement as signs of disappointment as despite assurances India has reduced imports from there and has increased shipments from countries like Iraq and Venezuela.

This clearly seems to be an impact of the US and European Union sanctions on Iran’s imports as even figures show that India has reduced its crude purchase from Iran to 13 million tonnes in 2012-13 from 18 million tonnes in the previous year. Official sources though refuse to see this as an impact of sanctions on Iran and continue to play the line that India is not affected by them.

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