December 7, 2011 / 7:52 AM / 7 years ago

Russia rejects Iran oil ban

DOHA (Reuters) - Banning Iranian oil sales would be a political move and Russia does not believe energy supplies should be used to exert pressure, Russia’s energy minister said on Wednesday.

European Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger said on Tuesday there was consensus among some EU countries to ban imports of Iranian oil and that Europe hoped to bring Russia on board in a global ban.

But the world’s biggest crude oil producer, which does not import any Iranian crude, is unlikely to back the plan aimed at piling pressure on Iran to drop its disputed nuclear program.

“It is quite obvious that this decision is based on some political motivation ... In these situations we try to be as neutral as possible,” Sergei Shmatko told reporters on the sidelines of the World Petroleum Congress.

“Do you realize the impact of this decision once it is made?” he said, without elaborating.

Some EU countries are worried that a ban on imports of Iranian oil could damage their own fragile economies more than it would Iran’s.

The secretary general of oil exporting group OPEC, of which Iran is a leading member, said at the same conference that European countries which together import 450,000 barrels per day of Iranian oil, would struggle to find alternative supplies in the event of a ban.

The three leading EU importers of Iranian oil — Italy, Spain and Greece — are also at the centre of Europe’s sovereign debt crisis.

Having to find alternative supplies of potentially pricier oil than their regular Iranian crude could intensify their economic problems by fuelling inflation.

Shmatko said that rather than banning oil sales, countries concerned about Tehran’s nuclear plans, which many governments suspect includes a weapons program, should seek a diplomatic resolution to the conflict.

“As far as the nuclear program of Iran is concerned, we try to discuss these issues in other forums, for example the UN security council,” he said.

Additional reporting by Tom Bergin and Humeyra Pamuk; editing by Amran Abocar and Jason Neely

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