UPDATE 1-Iran oil export revenues down 45 pct since March-ISNA

Mon Jan 7, 2013 9:41am EST

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DUBAI Jan 7 (Reuters) - Iran's earnings from oil have slumped by 45 percent since last March and are not likely to rise over the next three months, Iranian Oil Minister Rostam Qasemi told a parliamentary budget committee on Monday, according to Iran's ISNA news agency.

Qasemi has until now played down any impact of Western restrictions on oil sales but he told Iranian MPs that sales volumes had fallen by 40 percent over the last nine months while earnings had dropped 45 percent, ISNA quoted a budget and planning committee spokesman as saying.

Iranian officials do not expect any improvement in oil earnings before the end of the current Iranian year in late March and foresee only a modest rise in exports after that.

"It is estimated that oil exports next (Iranian) year will reach 1.5 million bpd," committee spokesman Gholam Reza Kateb was quoted by ISNA as saying after a presentation by Qasemi.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that Iranian oil exports fell from 2.2 million barrels per day (bpd) at the end of 2011 to just 860,000 bpd in September 2012, as the United States and European Union stepped up efforts to starve Tehran of funds for its disputed nuclear programme by pressuring Iran's mainly Asian customers to buy less.

The IEA estimates that Iranian exports recovered to 1.3 million bpd in October as China and South Korea bought more oil ahead of winter. But Iranian production fell back to its lowest level since 1988 in December and exports dipped again because of sanctions.

Qasemi has previously publically denied any significant reduction in production or exports.

But the semi-official Fars news agency reported in November that Iran's state budget for the next fiscal year may assume exports of just 1 million bpd, which implies Iran expects to make around $110 million less every day from oil sales than before sanctions tightened in early 2012.

The United States and many of its allies accuse Iran of enriching uranium to levels used in nuclear weapons. Iran says its atomic programme is solely for peaceful purposes.

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