DUBAI, Sept 22 (Reuters) - Iran's crude oil production will remain steady this year compared to last year, the country's oil minister was quoted as saying.
Rostam Qasemi's remarks, made to an Iranian news agency on Friday, countered a forecast by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) of a fall in Iranian production this year.
Iran produced about 3.5 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil in 2011, according to OPEC figures.
"The amount of the country's crude oil production this year will be the same as the production last year," said Qasemi, according to the Iranian Students' News Agency (ISNA).
The EIA has said it expects Iranian production to fall by about 850,000 bpd by the end of this year to 2.7 million bpd, and fall by another 200,000 bpd in 2013.
Iran's oil sector suffers from a lack of investment needed to offset natural declines in productivity. Sanctions levied by the West over Iran's nuclear programme have made it difficult for foreign companies investing in Iran's upstream production to continue their business there. The European Union banned imports of Iranian oil starting July 1.
But Iranian officials maintain the country's oil sector and sales have not been hurt by the sanctions. Qasemi said on Friday that a number of new oil and gas fields had been discovered in the last year and new figures for the country's reserves would be announced shortly.
"Iran's crude is being supplied on the world markets and Iran has its traditional buyers," Qasemi told Shana, Iran's oil news website, on Wednesday.