US still aiming to cut Iran oil sales to zero: US envoy for Iran

Updated 15 October 2018
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US still aiming to cut Iran oil sales to zero: US envoy for Iran

  • Hook said Iran's ballistic missile activities need to be deterred.
  • An industry source and tanker data revealed that Turkey and Italy are the last buyers of Iranian crude outside China, India and the Middle East.

PARIS: The United States is still aiming to cut Iran's oil sales to zero and does not foresee the re-imposition of oil sanctions against Tehran on Nov. 4 as having a negative impact on the market as it is well-supplied and balanced, Washington's special envoy for Iran said on Monday.
Speaking to reporters in a conference call, Brian Hook also said Iran's ballistic missile activities need to be deterred and that European efforts to create a special purpose vehicle for trade with Tehran would find no demand as more than 100 foreign firms had indicated they would be leaving the country.

Hook's statements came as an industry source and tanker data revealed that Turkey and Italy are the last buyers of Iranian crude outside China, India and the Middle East, the latest sign that shipments are taking a major hit from looming US sanctions.
The Islamic Republic has exported 1.33 million barrels per day so far in October to India, China, Turkey and the Middle East, according to Refinitiv Eikon data. No vessels are shown heading to Europe with Iranian crude.
However, an industry source who also tracks the exports estimated shipments at 1.5 million bpd, including vessels which are not showing on AIS satellite tracking, of which a 1 million-barrel tanker is going to Italy.
That’s down from at least 2.5 million bpd in April, before President Donald Trump in May withdrew the United States from a 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and reimposed sanctions. The figures also mark a further fall from 1.6 million bpd in September.
The expected loss of a sizeable amount of Iranian supply has helped drive a rally in oil prices, which on Oct. 3 hit their highest since late 2014 at $86.74 a barrel. Crude has since eased to $81 although analysts say the Iranian export drop remains supportive.
“It’s one of the reasons why prices are still above $80,” said Eugen Weinberg, analyst at Commerzbank.
The October figures add to signs that buyers are sufficiently wary of the US sanctions to stop or scale back their Iranian crude dealings, and that exports are falling more steeply than some in the market expected.
For sure, definitive export data is hard to uncover. Tanker schedules are often adjusted, exports vary week by week and the tracking of tankers, while easier than in the past due to satellite information, remains both art and science.
In the first week of October, Iran’s crude exports averaged 1.1 million bpd according to Refinitiv and less than 1 million bpd according to another industry source.
While Washington has said it wants to cut Iran’s oil exports to zero, Iran and Saudi Arabia say that is unlikely to happen. The Trump administration is considering waivers on sanctions for countries that are reducing their imports.
India, a major buyer, has ordered Iranian oil for November.
Iran, which has pledged to block any OPEC supply increase that the country deems to be against its interests, says it has found new buyers for its oil and its crude output has fallen only slightly.
For September, Iran told OPEC its crude output dropped by 50,000 bpd to 3.76 million bpd, while consultants and government agencies that OPEC uses to monitor production reported a larger fall to 3.45 million bpd.
Indeed, Iran may not yet have cut production to match the rate of decline in its exports, as the country appears to be storing more oil on ships, as it did during sanctions that applied until the 2015 nuclear deal.

 


France urges Iran to free human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh

Updated 17 min 41 sec ago
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France urges Iran to free human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh

PARIS: France on Thursday called for Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh to be released and warned Tehran that its adherence to a nuclear accord does not give it a blank cheque on human rights.
“We will do all we can to secure the release of Mrs.Sotoudeh,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told the upper chamber Senate.
“She was condemned under astonishing conditions,” for “defending the rights of women, in particular those who contest the obligation to wear the Islamic veil,” he added.
Sotoudeh’s husband Reza Khandan told AFP on Sunday that his wife had been sentenced to a total of 33 years in prison over a case with seven charges, but she is to only serve the longest sentence, 12 years imposed on Sunday for “encouraging corruption and debauchery.”
She has also been convicted of espionage.
Sotoudeh has also been sentenced to a total of 148 lashes for appearing in court without the hijab Islamic head covering and for another offense.
According to Khandan, Sotoudeh has refrained from choosing a lawyer as attorneys on her previous cases have faced prosecution for representing her.
“We have been making considerable efforts in recent months to preserve the (Iranian) nuclear accord, despite America’s withdrawal,” said Le Drian.
“We are doing so because we respect our signature, but Iran must also respect its obligations in particular those international agreements relating to civil and political rights,” he added.
Last month the UN atomic watchdog said that Iran has been adhering to its deal with world powers on limiting its nuclear program, as diplomatic wrangling continues over the future of the accord.
The latest report from the International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed that Iran was still complying with the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with global powers under which Tehran drastically scaled back its nuclear program in return for sanctions relief.
Last week, European nations rejected a call from US Vice President Mike Pence to follow the US lead in withdrawing from the Iranian nuclear deal.
Le Drian said Thursday: “Our wish to preserve the Vienna accord does not grant carte-blanche to Iran and certainly not in the matter of human rights.”
Before her arrest, Sotoudeh, 55, had taken on the cases of several women arrested for appearing in public without headscarves in protest at the mandatory dress code in force in Iran.
Sotoudeh won the European Parliament’s prestigious Sakharov Prize in 2012 for her work on high-profile cases, including those of convicts on death row for offenses committed as minors.
She spent three years in prison after representing dissidents arrested during mass protests in 2009 against the disputed re-election of ultra-conservative president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.