Turkey weighs seeking U.S. waiver on Iran oil

Tue Jan 3, 2012 9:57am EST

Related Topics

* Turkey gets about 30 pct of its oil from Iran

* New U.S. measures target Iran's central bank

* U.S. measures allow for exemptions

ANKARA, Jan 3 (Reuters) - Turkey is evaluating whether to seek a waiver from the United States to exempt Turkish oil importer Tupras from new U.S. sanctions on institutions that deal with Iran's central bank, a Turkish official said on Tuesday.

U.S. ally Turkey is among the biggest buyers of Iranian oil and gas. It gets about 30 percent of its oil from neighbour Iran, and Tupras, Turkey's biggest crude oil importer is a big buyer of Iranian crude.

The United States has armed itself with tough measures targeting financial institutions that deal with Iran's central bank, the main clearinghouse through which OPEC's No. 2 oil exporter deals with clients around the world.

The law, signed by President Barack Obama on Saturday, allows Obama to exempt institutions in a country that has significantly reduced its dealings with Iran. He may also grant waivers deemed to be in the U.S. national security interest or otherwise necessary for energy market stability.

"It is too early to say if Turkey will seek a waiver. We are evaluating the content of the new law. Once we have evaluated it we will make a decision," "a Turkish official told Reuters.

"But Turkey's position all along on sanctions is that only U.N. sanctions are legally binding."

Waivers also could be selectively granted for institutions that have forward contracts with Iranian companies.

Tupras officials were not immediately available for comment.

Iran said on Dec. 24 it had extended its crude export contract with Turkey for 2012.

Tupras, Turkey's sole refiner and owned by Turkey's largest conglomerate Koc Holding, purchased 7.41 million tonnes of crude oil from Iran in 2010, according to a presentation on its website, equivalent to almost 38 percent of the 19.6 million tonnes of crude it refined that year.

The European Union is also considering a ban on crude purchases from Iran.

Turkey is bound by U.N. sanctions against Iran, though it opposed the last round of measures in 2010, and it insists it is not obliged to follow non-U.N. sanctions.

(Writing by Ibon Villelabeitia, editing by William Hardy)

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