* U.S. plans new sanctions on trade with Iran
* Minister says Ankara in talks with Washington
* Rise in gold exports destined for Iran
By Evrim Ergin
ISTANBUL, Nov 29 Turkey's energy minister said
on Thursday that he sees no conflict between Ankara and
Washington over U.S. plans to widen trade sanctions against
Iran, including Turkish-Iranian "gold for gas" trade.
U.S. senators and aides told Reuters this week that new
sanctions aimed at reducing global trade with Iran in the
energy, shipping and metals sectors may soon be considered by
the U.S. Senate as part of an annual defence policy bill.
One senior aide said the move would end "Turkey's game of
gold for natural gas", referring to Iran's conversion of Turkish
payments for gas into gold because of the sanctions.
Iran sells oil and gas to Turkey, with payments made to
Iranian state institutions. U.S. and European banking sanctions
ban payments in U.S. dollars or euros, so Iran is paid in
Turkish lira - of limited value for buying goods on
international markets, but ideal for buying gold in Turkey.
Asked about the planned new sanctions, Turkey's Energy
Minister Taner Yildiz said: "I'm not of the view that there will
be any negative situation, a clash with the USA, regarding
natural gas, oil and mining. We are talking with the USA."
Couriers carrying millions of dollars worth of gold bullion
in their luggage have been flying from Istanbul to Dubai, where
the gold is shipped to Iran, industry sources with knowledge of
the business told Reuters last month.
Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan said last week
that the lira Iran received from Turkey for its gas was being
converted into gold because sanctions meant that it could not
transfer the cash into Iran.
Official Turkish trade data suggests that nearly $2 billion
in gold was sent to Dubai on behalf of Iranian buyers in August.
The shipments help Tehran to manage its finances in the face of
Western financial sanctions.
The sanctions, imposed over Iran's disputed nuclear
programme, have largely frozen it out of the global banking
system, making it hard to conduct international money transfers.
By using physical gold, Iran can continue to move its wealth
As the banking sanctions began to bite in March, Tehran
sharply increased its purchases of gold bullion from Turkey,
according to the Turkish government's trade data.
Turkey's gold exports as a whole jumped more than fourfold
to $11.2 billion in the first eight months of 2012.
More than 90 percent of Iran's gas exports go to Turkey
under a 25-year supply deal. Turkey imports about 10 billion
cubic metres of gas a year from Iran, making it the country's
second-largest supplier behind Russia.