August 15, 2011 / 7:37 AM / 8 years ago

Iran says India paid two thirds of oil debt

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran has received two thirds of the oil debts from Indian buyers that had accumulated this year due to a sanctions-related payments problem, Central Bank Governor Mahmoud Bahmani told the students’ news agency ISNA on Monday.

“Two thirds of India’s debt to Iran has been paid and the balance is being taken care of and there are no problems in this regard,” he said.

Bahmani confirmed that Iran and India have discussed India paying for some of its oil in gold. “Such talks have taken place and if necessary we will do that,” he said.

Indian refiners said last week they expected Iran to resume 400,000 barrels a day of oil exports in September, following an uncertain August, now that they have been able to start paying the debt that Deputy Oil Minister Ahmad Qalebani said amounted to $4.8 billion.

India, Asia’s third-largest economy and Iran’s second-largest oil buyer after China, racked up the debt after the Reserve Bank of India scrapped a clearing house system last December — a move welcomed by Washington as it tries to isolate the Islamic Republic.

Although there is no international ban against buying Iranian crude, the United States and the European Union have imposed sanctions on financial transactions with Iran and Washington has been pressing other countries to take similar measures.

A proposed payment conduit through Hamburg, Germany-based Europaisch Iranische Handelsbank (EIH) was scrapped earlier this year after the EU followed the United States in imposing sanctions on the Iranian-owned banks.

Sources in India said the latest payments were being done through Turkey’s state-controlled Halkbank. Financial sanctions, led by Washington which aims to pressure Tehran to curb its nuclear program, have made it increasingly difficult for Iran to access international banking services.

Bahmani denied media reports of similar payment problems with China and South Korea. “We are not facing any problems in this regard,” he said.

Korean government sources have told Reuters Iran could have nearly $5 billion of cash trapped in South Korea by the end of the year as sanctions stop it from repatriating money from oil sales.

The Financial Times reported last month that sanctions might have prevented China from paying as much as $30 billion for oil from Iran, something Tehran has denied.

Reporting by Hossein Jaseb; Writing by Robin Pomeroy; Editing by Keiron Henderson

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