* Oil official denies report Iran blocked crude bound for
* Tehran has threatened to stop selling to some EU states
* Reacts to EU's phased-in oil sanctions over nuclear fears
TEHRAN, Feb 26 Iran said on Sunday it had
not blocked an oil shipment to Greece, denying earlier reports
it had done so in retaliation to the EU phasing in a ban on its
key export, the Iranian Student's News Agency (ISNA) reported.
"There has been no change in Iran's oil shipment to Greece
or any other country. No changes in our shipment schedule," said
Pirouz Mousavi, managing director of the Iranian Oil Terminals
Earlier, Iran's semi-official Fars news agency said Tehran
had refused shipment of 500,000 destined for Greek refiner
Hellenic Petroleum, but a Hellenic official denied it.
"That has nothing to do with us ... all supplies from Iran
have been processed normally," the official told Reuters.
The European Union decided in January to stop importing
Iranian crude as of July 1, the latest in a series of
international sanctions aimed at forcing Tehran to halt its
sensitive nuclear work, as demanded by the U.N. Security
Iran stopped selling crude to British and French companies
last week after the oil minister said Tehran would cut oil
exports to "some" European countries.
Brent crude surged to over $125 a barrel on Friday amid
fears of an escalation of tensions after the U.N. nuclear agency
issued a report showing Tehran had increased its most sensitive
nuclear work which the West says is part of a weapons programme,
a charge Tehran denies.
The price of oil has increased over the fear of tightening
supplies, including a threat from Tehran to close a vital oil
shipping route, the Strait of Hormuz, if attacked.
Israel and the United States have not ruled out military
action if diplomacy fails to stop Iran getting nuclear weapons.
Iran says its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes and has
promised a "painful" response to any attack.
The world's top oil exporter Saudi Arabia said it would
compensate for any oil shortage in the market and the European
Commission has said that the bloc would not be short of oil if
Iran stopped crude exports, as it has enough in stock to meet
its needs for around 120 days.
While Europe would suffer more directly from the lack of
Iranian crude than the United States, which does not buy oil
from Tehran, the knock on effect of a disruption would drive up
prices across the globe.
Greece is considered more vulnerable than most as it is
suffering a major economic crisis and has been reliant on Iran
for almost one quarter of its oil imports.
Traders told Reuters on Feb. 24 that Swiss-based Totsa, the
trading arm of French oil major Total, and trading
house Mercuria were in separate negotiations with Hellenic to
help it replace Iranian crude.
Glencore, a leading Swiss-based commodities trader and one of
the few that conducted business with Greece during the debt
crisis, may also boost supplies, trading sources have said.
Hellenic would pay back the traders with refined products,
which could then be sold in Greece or abroad.