Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Oil Exports by Iran Are Down 40%, Minister Says

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Oil Exports by Iran Are Down 40%, Minister Says

Article excerpt

The acknowledgment of a sharp drop in petroleum revenue as a result of sanctions came as the government stopped selling jet fuel to domestic airlines unless they paid cash, leading to flight cancellations.

The Iranian oil minister has acknowledged for the first time that petroleum exports and sales fell at least 40 percent over the past year, contradicting his previous denials and providing an unusual public admission that the cumulative impact of Western economic sanctions has grown more severe.

The acknowledgment Monday by the oil minister, Rostam Qasemi, came as new restrictions are threatening to further choke Iran's ability to sell oil, its most important export. Under provisions of a U.S. law to take effect in February, importers of Iranian oil that have been exempted from the sanctions cannot send the money used to buy it to Iran without risking penalties in the United States. The result could impound billions of dollars' worth of Iran's expected oil revenue in the banks of those importing countries.

Additional punitive measures, which President Barack Obama signed into law last week, broaden the roster of blacklisted Iranian industries to include all energy, shipping and shipbuilding enterprises and seek to restrict barter transactions that Iran has been using to circumvent earlier sanctions. Some critics of the new steps say they nearly amount to a trade embargo.

In another consequence of the sanctions' impact, the Oil Ministry on Monday stopped the sale of jet fuel to Iran's heavily indebted domestic airlines unless they pay cash. The semiofficial Mehr news agency reported that most commercial airline flights inside the country had been canceled as a result.

Mr. Qasemi, a former Revolutionary Guards commander who was appointed oil minister more than a year ago, had consistently asserted that Iran had no problem selling its oil. …

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