Oil report

Iran September gasoline imports seen steady vs Aug

*Iran keeps Sept gasoline imports at 128,000 bpd

*Iran imports unaffected by internal and external politics

DUBAI, Aug 25 (Reuters) - Iran’s September gasoline imports were expected to be steady versus this month, even as the West seeks to impose punitive measures on companies selling gasoline to the Islamic Republic, traders said on Tuesday.

Tehran will import around 128,000 barrels per day (bpd) of gasoline next month or about 15 cargoes, unchanged from August shipments, traders said.

The world’s fifth largest crude oil exporter lacks refining capacity to meet its domestic gasoline needs, forcing it to purchase large volumes of the motor fuel which it then sells locally at heavily subsidised prices.

“They have been fairly consistent on their imports the last few months,” a trader said.

“And this despite the internal political problems and growing call from the West to find a way to block gasoline sales into the country.”

Iran currently imports up to 40 percent of its gasoline supplies, and the United States and its allies are looking to target those imports if the OPEC member refuses to enter talks over its nuclear programme.

The West believes Iran aims to make nuclear bombs, while Tehran insists it needs fuel for power plants.

To pressure Tehran to give up its nuclear programme, the U.S. Senate last month voted to ban firms that sell gasoline and other refined oil products to Iran from also receiving Energy Department contracts to deliver crude to the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

“This is going to be very difficult to police and monitor, Iran has managed to meet its domestic requirements all these years despite the sanctions already in place,” a trader said.

“And even if they do pass this bill, Iran will still find a way to bring the oil into the country.”

Analysts say U.S. sanctions against suppliers of fuel to Iran would help boost the price it has to pay for imports, providing lucrative deals for trading firms who are able to flout the measures.

The companies that sell fuel to Iran include Europe-based trading firms Vitol, Trafigura, Russia's LUKOIL LKOH.MM and Malaysia's state oil company Petronas, oil traders said.

India's Reliance RELI.BO which used to supply fuel to Iran, has not shipped anything there since May.