Iran may ban oil exports to Europe before July
TEHRAN - Agence France-Presse
Smoke rises from the chimneys of an oil refinery near Corinth town, some 80km (50 miles) west of Athens January 24, 2012. REUTERS PhotoIran's parliament is expected to consider next week a bill to ban oil exports to Europe after the bloc imposed an embargo on oil from the Islamic republic, media quoted deputies as saying Thursday.
The parliament's energy commission "is finalising a bill to halt oil exports to Europe," the body's spokesman, Emad Hosseini, said in widely reported comments.
Hosseini said that the proposal was likely to be presented on Sunday to the assembly, which would then decide if and when to include it on its agenda.
"If this bill is passed, the government will be forced to stop selling oil to Europe before the actual implementation of their sanctions," he said.
The European Union on Monday slapped an embargo on Iranian oil exports as the West ramped up pressure on Tehran over its controversial nuclear drive and urged it to return to the negotiating table.
The Islamic republic, which is already under four rounds of United Nations sanctions, vehemently denies its nuclear programme masks an atomic weapons drive as the West alleges, and insists it is for civilian purposes only.
"The bill seeks to force the government to stop selling oil to Europe before the EU embargo comes into force," another deputy Hassan Ghafourifard who is also member of the energy commission was quoted as saying on the parliament website.
EU foreign ministers agreed on an immediate ban on oil imports and a phase-out of existing contracts up to July 1. They also froze the assets of Iran's central bank while ensuring legitimate trade under strict conditions.
The bloc imported some 600,000 barrels per day of Iranian oil in the first 10 months of last year, making it a key market alongside India and China, which has refused to bow to pressure from Washington to dry up Iran's oil revenues.
The new EU sanctions meanwhile would make it even more difficult for Iran to be paid in foreign currency for its oil exports, worth more than 100 billion dollars in 2011.
If the law passes, "the countries who targetted the Iranian oil will not receive a drop," warned another member of the energy commission, Nasser Soudani, also quoted by the media.
Iran's decision "will lead to higher prices and the Europeans will have to buy their oil more expensively," he said.