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US sanctions more groups over Iran nuclear program India waits for Tehran to open oil payments route – RBI

WASHINGTON, Dec 12, (Agencies): Washington Thursday blacklisted a dozen overseas companies and individuals for evading sanctions on Iran in a show of strength to coax Congress to back off new moves against Tehran and warn Iranian leaders to comply with a nuclear deal.
“Today’s actions should be a stark reminder to businesses, banks and brokers everywhere that we will continue relentlessly to enforce our sanctions, even as we explore the possibility of a long-term, comprehensive resolution of our concerns with Iran’s nuclear program,” said David Cohen, Treasury under secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence.
US citizens or companies are barred from engaging in transactions with any of the firms and individuals named on Thursday and their assets will be frozen in the United States.


Those listed include the Singapore-based Mid Oil Asia and Singa Tankers, both companies accused of helping Iran transfer badly-needed funds to a foreign bank on behalf of the National Iranian Tanker Company. Ukrainian national Vitaly Sokolenko and his Odessa-based firm Ferland Company Limited were also cited for helping to broker the sales of Iranian oil and transfer the crude ship-to-ship.The surprise action came as US lawmakers are actively considering slapping new sanctions on Iran, to up the pressure on the Islamic regime to remain faithful to a November 24 deal struck with global powers.
US Secretary of State John Kerry this week returned twice to Capitol Hill seeking to dissuade lawmakers from drawing up new legislation which could be unveiled before Congress leaves on recess for the end of year holidays.
Under the interim deal reached in Geneva, Iran agreed to freeze parts of its suspect nuclear program in return for some $7 billion in sanctions relief as it negotiates a final, comprehensive accord to dismantle its nuclear weapons capability.
The United States also agreed to refrain from slapping new sanctions on Iran, but senior administration officials argued Thursday’s measures were taken as part of the existing sanctions regime which had forced Tehran to the negotiating table.


Pressure
“Sanctions pressure will be essential as we seek to negotiate a comprehensive long-term resolution,” a senior administration official told reporters on a conference call.
India is waiting for Iran to tell it how to make payments for oil allowed under last month’s deal with global powers on sanctions and will pay in instalments, Reserve Bank of India Deputy Governor H.R. Khan said.
Iran can now unlock $4.2 billion of payments for its oil stuck with major clients including India, China, Japan and South Korea after it reached an interim deal with six world powers in November over its nuclear programme.
India, Iran’s second-biggest customer after China, has been paying for 45 percent of its supplies in rupees and the rest used to be paid in euros through Turkey’s Halkbank until sanctions tightened on that route too earlier this year.
Iranian officials have been in India this week looking at ways to unlock the payments.
“Whether the Halkbank route has been opened or not we are not sure,” Khan told reporters on the sidelines of the central bank’s board meeting here. “Going forward we will evaluate the proposal and see how best it can be done.”


Halkbank has said it could resume payments once the Geneva deal becomes “official.”
Access to the funds would bring some relief to Iran’s strangled economy and was allowed in return for Tehran’s commitment to halting its most sensitive nuclear work.
But Khan said: “not much is going to be paid,” and added, “it is not going to happen immediately, it will happen in a staggered manner.”
Iran’s oil exports have slid to 1 million barrels per day (bpd) from around 2.5 million bpd before sanctions were imposed, partly through constraints on insurance for sales and partly as clients cut volumes to avoid being penalised by Washington.
India wants to import about 220,000 bpd from Iran this year but could fall short of that after insurance problems halted shipments. It imported at an annual rate of 120,000-130,000 bpd from Iran till November in the year that started April 1, an oil ministry source said last week.

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