Tehran fumes as US expands oil sanctions
Iran on Wednesday slammed as "hostile" new US sanctions aiming to prevent importers from buying Iranian oil using foreign currencies, saying it will seek to circumvent the measures.
The US sanctions, which took effect on Wednesday, come as Tehran and world powers gear up to hold talks on the Islamic republic's disputed atomic programme later this month.
The measures will compel Iran to engage in barter arrangements with importers of its oil, meaning the buyers will have to put money into escrow accounts accessible by Iran to purchase goods from the oil-importing country.
Those that fail to comply with the rule risk expulsion from the US banking system.
"This is the latest ring in the series of hostile actions against Iran," Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said of the new punitive measures.
"We are seeking methods to neutralise the new pressure," he said, quoted by Mehr news agency.
But he said the sanctions would actually lead to increased trade with countries that import its oil, especially those with which Iran already has regular trade links.
"We could double the trade volume with the countries importing our oil... (for example) we export five, 10, or 20 billion dollars worth of oil, and instead we can receive the needed goods," said Mehmanparast.
Iran imported goods worth nearly $43 billion during the past 10 months, according to the customs authorities.
It has already put in motion initiatives to facilitate its barter arrangements and set up a "barter committee" for the private sector, deputy trade minister Hamid Safdel was quoted as saying by Mehr on Tuesday.
Iran is under several rounds of sanctions by the United Nations, the United States and the European Union, which accuse Tehran of developing a military capability under the guise of a civilian nuclear programme.
Iran denies these accusations, saying its atomic programme is purely peaceful.
The US sanctions come ahead of a meeting between Iran and six world powers -- the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany -- in Kazakhstan on February 26 for talks on the programme.
The last of such efforts ended in a stalemate in Moscow eight months ago, when Iran refused Western demands to curb its activities and asked for substantial sanctions relief.
Mehmanparast, meanwhile, said Iran was striving to remove "in the near future" its dependency on petrodollars, already hit by an EU oil embargo.
The measure, which entered into effect in July, ended European purchases of Iranian crude, and has since decreased Tehran's oil exports to its Asian customers from between 10 to 30 percent.
The Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries and the International Energy Agency say Iranian crude exports have fallen from about 2.4 million barrels per day in late 2011 to some 1.0 mbpd at the end of 2012.
Oil Minister Rostam Qasemi said last month that Iran's repatriation of its crude was slashed 45 percent in the final nine months of 2012.