EU says Iran oil halt poses no immediate supply risk

BRUSSELS Wed Feb 15, 2012 9:06am EST

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union member states would not find themselves short of oil if Iran stops exports, as they have enough in stock to meet their needs for around 120 days, a Commission spokeswoman said on Wednesday.

Iranian state television announced earlier in the day that the country was halting its crude exports to six European countries, although Iran's oil ministry said shortly afterwards that this was not the case.

The report followed a January agreement by EU ministers to ban imports of Iranian oil in order to increase pressure over its nuclear program. The West thinks Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons, but Tehran denies this.

Under EU law, member states are obliged to hold stocks amounting to at least 90 days' use so that they do not suffer shortages in an emergency.

The inventories, in a mixture of crude oil and refined products, are currently at around 120 days' consumption, with most member states holding more than the minimum requirement, Commission spokeswoman Marlene Holzner told Reuters.

Among European nations, debt-ridden Greece is most exposed to the impact of any Iranian oil disruption.

The European Commission says it has been monitoring the oil market and stands ready to respond if Greece needs help. Leading oil exporter Saudi Arabia has also indicated its readiness to satisfy any increased demand from existing customers, the Commission has said.

In 2010, Iran was the fifth biggest oil supplier to the EU. Russia was the number one supplier, followed by Norway, Libya and Saudi Arabia.

(Editing By Sebastian Moffett and James Jukwey)

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