WASHINGTON – Reuters
The United States expects countries that buy oil fromIran to further reduce their purchases if they want to avoid U.S. sanctions, aState Department source said on Dec. 5.
"The law requires additional cuts so we expectbuyers to make additional cuts," a source at the State Department saidabout the U.S.
sanctions law signed a year ago by President BarackObama.
A Senate aide said the law's requirements of deeperreductions every six months is clear.
"While I find it very hard to believe the U.S. StateDepartment didn't remind our Turkish partners that U.S. law requires them tocontinue significantly reducing toward a permanent end to Iranian imports, U.S.
law stands whether they received a warning or not,"said the aide, who did not want to be identified given the sensitivity of U.S.talks with oil consumer countries.
Under that law, banks in countries that buy oil from Irancan be cut off from the U.S. financial system unless the purchases are reduced.
China, India, South Korea, Turkey and other countries gotsix-month "exceptions" to the sanctions in June for reducing oilshipments from Iran. The law says the cuts have to be "significant"but does not dictate how deep they must be.
The sanctions are designed to make it harder for Iran tofund its nuclear program, which Washington suspects is enriching uranium tolevels that could be used in weapons, a charge Iran denies.
The architects of the sanctions legislation, DemocraticSenator Robert Menendez and Republican Senator Mark Kirk, have urged the WhiteHouse to require countries to reduce purchases by about 18 percent beforegetting the next round of waivers.
The 18 percent level surfaced in March when the StateDepartment exempted Japan from sanctions, estimating that it had cut purchasesby
15 to 22 percent.
Carlos Pascual, the State Department's top energydiplomat, and other U.S. officials have been having conversations with Iran'stop oil buyers as well as oil producers to see how the buyers can tapalternative sources of oil.
The State Department is expected to decide by Dec. 8whether it will extend the six-month exceptions to the sanctions given toIndia, South Korea and other buyers of Iranian crude. The deadline for thedecision for China and Singapore comes later in the month.
A State Department fact sheet about the sanctions lawsays the exceptions "can be renewed if the country continues tosignificantly reduce its volume of crude oil purchases from Iran in eachsubsequent 180-day period," implying cuts should be deepened every sixmonths.
While the department expects countries to keep reducingpurchases, considerations such as seasonal demand and conditions in the marketenter into the equation. Some countries require more fuel in winter months, sothe department considers reductions over year-before levels, rather thancomparing them with cuts made in the last round.
Discussions the United States has with oil consumingcountries focus on long term supply, the State Department source said. Thedepartment asks countries how they will cut purchases, rather demanding thatthey cut by a certain percentage.
Turkey's oil minister said on Dec. 5 his country has notreceived any new request from the United States to reduce its level of crudepurchases from Iran.
But the purchases seem to be falling. Turkish trade datain November showed Turkey's crude imports from Iran fell by more than 30percent in October as Ankara turned to Iraq and Saudi Arabia for supply.
Turkey got the June exception after it cut purchases by20 percent.