Russia economy chief to visit Iran amid oil deal reports
MOSCOW - Agence France-Presse
A file picture taken on December 25, 2013, shows Russia's Economic Development Minister Alexei Ulyukayev (R) listening to Finance Minister Anton Siluanov (L) during a meeting in the Kremlin in Moscow. AFP PhotoRussia's economy chief said on Wednesday he would visit Iran in April amid reports of the two sides nearing an oil-for-goods agreement that has raised consternation in the United States.
Economy Minister Alexei Ulyukayev told reporters his trip would focus on a "wide range of trade and economic issues" but provided no other details.
The "visit will probably take place, but not in March (as previously reported) but in late April," Russian news agencies quoted Ulyukayev as saying.
Moscow's Kommersant business daily said on January 16 that the two close trading partners were discussing a barter agreement under which Russia could import up to 500,000 barrels of Iranian oil per day.
Russian officials have neither confirmed nor denied the discussions while adding that such deliveries would not break the UN-backed trade restrictions on the Islamic state.
The United States and EU nations have imposed their own unilateral sanctions over Tehran's disputed nuclear programme that also penalise countries and companies dealing in certain areas with Iran.
The White House last month expressed "serious concern" over the reported discussions because they could potentially boost Iran's current oil export volumes by more than 50 percent.
Iran's estimated daily crude exports are believed to have declined from about 2.5 million barrels per day in late 2011 to less than one million barrels per day at the end of last year.
Tehran's Fars news agency cited Moscow's Iranian ambassador as saying on Saturday that the swap would see Russia build railroads in the Islamic republic in exchange for its oil.
Russia has no sanctions against Iran and is helping its Soviet-era partner with arms shipments and nuclear energy production.