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Iran says crude, agri output to help against sanctions

NEW DELHI, July 8 (Reuters) - High crude oil prices and better agricultural output will help accelerate Iran’s economic growth this year, its economy minister said on Thursday, partly offsetting the impact of sanctions.

“During the last few years, we had problems with climate, rains ... but this year for the agricultural sector the conditions are well,” Shamseddin Hosseini told reporters on the sidelines of a conference in New Delhi.

“Because of these two factors -- oil and agriculture -- we believe that the Iranian economy will accelerate”.

Average crude oil prices have been hovering over $70 per barrel this year compared with an average $62 per barrel last year. Agriculture, another growth driver, accounts for about a fifth of Iran’s economy.

The Iranian parliament has also approved bond issues of 12 billion euros ($15 billion) this year, partly to fund the development of oil and gas assets in the country.

In an effort to persuade Iran to curb its nuclear activities, the U.N. Security Council has imposed sanctions on the Islamic state since 2006.

Analysts say the latest punitive measures -- a fourth round of U.N. sanctions followed by additional steps by the United States and the European Union targeting Iran’s energy sector -- will cause further economic strain and deter foreign investors.

Analysts estimate Iran’s economy probably would have grown just 0.5 percent in the year ending March 2010. [ID:HOS864268]

Iran’s annual non-oil exports rose 10.5 percent in 2009 and 20 percent in the first three months of this year, while foreign investment surged 60 percent last year, the minister said.

Iran is looking at Asian countries for support and the minister said he expected bilateral trade with India to more than double to $30 billion in next four to five years.

Reporting by Manoj Kumar and Nidhi Verma; editing by Paul de Bendern