Asia's imports of Iran oil rise to 8-month high in March
Iran will continue to export oil despite US pressure aimed at reducing the country's crude shipments to zero, President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday.
"America's decision that Iran's oil exports must reach zero is a wrong and mistaken decision, and we won't let this decision be executed and operational," Rouhani said in a speech at a ceremony commemorating Workers' Week in Tehran.
"In future months, the Americans themselves will see that we will continue our oil exports."
Oil prices hit their highest since November in recent days after Washington said all waivers for sanctions-hit Iranian oil would end this week, pressuring importers to stop buying from Tehran and further tightening global supply.
The United States demanded on April 22 that buyers of Iranian oil stop purchases by May 1 or face sanctions, ending six months of waivers that had allowed Iran's eight biggest customers, most of them in Asia, to import limited volumes.
Rouhani noted that while the US is busy blocking one path for exports, Iran will still have multiple other methods at its disposal for crude oil sales, of which the Americans are unaware.
“The first goal of Americans in (imposing) cruel sanctions against Iran is to cut the country’s foreign exchange revenue,” said Rouhani, adding, “God willing, we will bring America to its knees.”
The Iranian president described resilience and resistance against the US as the main duty of the government and nation.
However, he noted that ordinary Iranians are the ones who feel the pressure from US sanctions.
Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei said last week the US administration’s hostile attempts to block Iran’s oil sales will lead nowhere, and that the country will export “as much crude as it needs and wishes” in defiance of American sanctions.
On Tuesday, National Iranian Oil Co offered 1 million barrels of heavy crude on the Iran Energy Exchange (IRENEX) in an attempt to attract new, private buyers.
Trading in crude oil is state-controlled in Iran, but to try to work around US sanctions, the government last year started selling to private buyers through the exchange.
Fars news agency reported that 70,000 barrels were sold at $60.68 a barrel. Iran does not reveal the identity of private buyers on the energy exchange because they might be targeted by US penalties.
Export to Asia
Meanwhile, data from government and trade sources showed on Thursday that Asia's crude oil imports from Iran rose to the highest in eight months in March as buyers rushed for more cargoes to take advantage of waivers to the sanctions the United States imposed.
Asia's top oil importers China, India, Japan and South Korea imported a total 1.57 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude from Iran in March, up 36 percent from the previous month to the highest since July, the data showed.
The total import volume for first quarter is 31 percent lower than the same period a year ago, according to the data.
Iranian oil exports will reach Japan, South Korea, India and China in April but only China has Iranian oil arriving in early May, data on Refinitiv Eikon showed.
US officials said there are sufficient supplies to replace Iran's oil with producers Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates ready to meet additional demand.
But Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh on Friday said the two Arab countries exaggerate their oil production capacities.
Asian refiners are expected to reach out to producers from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) for more supplies while South Korea is set to once again scan the world for alternative, but more expensive, condensate supplies and snap up heavy naphtha oil products.
Consultancy FGE said Iran will still get some 200,000-300,000 bpd of oil smuggled out on land via Iraq,
Pakistan and perhaps Turkey while Chinese trading company Zhuhai Zhenrong may continue to lift Iranian oil.
"The new tougher stance from the US implies that exports will likely be some 300,000-400,000 bpd lower than we previously expected," FGE said, adding that the loss of these exports makes the supply and demand balance for oil look more bullish.
Reuters and Press TV contributed to this story.