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Iran doesn't expect oil customers — including Japan — to get sanctions waivers

BLOOMBERG

Iran doesn’t believe buyers of its oil — including Japan — will get waivers from Washington following its renewal of sanctions, Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh said Friday.

American officials earlier were said to have asked Tokyo to completely halt oil imports from Iran, going beyond the cuts demanded during the 2012 Obama-era sanctions, which removed about 1 million barrels a day from the market. This suggests that U.S. President Donald Trump’s restrictions could have a big impact on the market.

The international oil companies Royal Dutch Shell PLC and Total SA have halted purchases already, Zanganeh said.

Oil companies “are having difficulty after U.S. pressure for money transfer, for transport insurance,” he said. “I don’t believe they can receive a waiver from the United States. We are going to find some other way.”

When Trump decided to reimpose restrictions on Iran last month, his administration gave buyers 180 days to curb their purchases.

The request to halt Japanese imports signals a tougher stance than in 2012, when nations were allowed to continue buying at reduced levels in exchange for waivers from U.S. financial restrictions.

Most customers are still buying Iran’s oil, and there are many ways for the country to try to preserve output, Zanganeh said in Vienna after attending a meeting of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.

“I cannot describe these other ways,” Zanganeh said. “If the United States administration knows what we are going to do, they will block us.”

The sanctions issue was a source of contention at the meeting, where Iran initially resisted efforts by fellow members to raise production and take its market share.

Iran’s Oil Ministry has prepared for a “worst scenario,” Zanganeh said, accusing Trump of acting against the free market. Iranian oil exports are close to 2.5 million barrels a day this month, he said.