January 17, 2012 / 1:16 PM / 7 years ago

India not seeking Iran oil waiver from U.S.: official

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India is not seeking a waiver from the United States that would protect buyers of Iranian oil from a fresh round of sanctions and New Delhi continues to import from Tehran, Indian Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai said on Tuesday.

New U.S. sanctions, authorized on December 31 and which penalize any financial institutions dealing with Iran’s central bank, could make it more difficult for India to pay Iran for oil imports and a delegation is currently in Tehran for talks.

The U.S. move still allows waivers for firms in countries that significantly reduce dealings with Iran, or at any time when it is either in the U.S. national interest or necessary for energy market stability.

Japan, South Korea and Turkey have all said they could seek waivers.

But Mathai said New Delhi was not seeking an exemption and implied it did not see the new sanctions as binding.

“We have accepted sanctions which are made by the United Nations. Other sanctions do not apply to individual countries,” Ranjan Mathai told reporters.

“We continue to buy oil from Iran.”

Asia’s third-largest economy is striving to balance the need to keep importing about $12 billion of Iranian crude annually with avoiding upsetting warming ties with Washington.

The United States and its allies in Europe and elsewhere are putting pressure on Iran to curb a nuclear program they worry is aimed at developing an atom bomb. Iran says its goal is to produce nuclear power.

Previous sanctions already made it harder for India to import the 350,000-400,000 barrels per day (bpd) it buys from Iran, about 12 percent of its oil needs. In 2010, the central bank scrapped a long-standing clearance mechanism, triggering a scramble by importers to find a new way to pay.

Since last year, Turkey’s Halkbank has routed India’s payments to Iran, but that conduit is seen by the government as unstable in the face of the latest U.S. sanctions.

Halkbank has already refused to open an account for state-run Bharat Petroleum Corp for oil from Iran.

An Indian official delegation is now in Tehran trying to find a way to continue the oil trade.

“A ... delegation is on its way to work out the mechanism for continued purchase of oil from Iran and to work out the financing mechanism,” Mathai said.

Reporting by Nidhi Verma; Editing by Krittivas Mukherjee

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