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Iran fights oil embargo with £150bn reserve

Category : Business

Tehran claims it has stockpiled £150bn in foreign reserves to counter ‘malicious’ EU ban on imports of crude oil

Iran has pledged to counter the impact of an EU oil embargo, saying it had built up $150bn (£95bn) in foreign reserves to protect itself.

The EU ban on crude imports, which took effect on Sunday, is part of a push by western countries aimed at choking Iran’s export earnings and forcing it to curb a nuclear programme they fear includes weapons development. Tehran says it has no such plan.

“We are implementing programmes to counter sanctions and we will confront these malicious policies,” Mehr news agency quoted the governor of the Iranian central bank, Mahmoud Bahmani, as saying.

He said the effects of the sanctions were tough but that Iran had built up $150bn in foreign reserves.

The EU banned new contracts for imports of Iranian crude in January, but allowed existing deals to continue until 1 July. EU firms are also barred from transporting Iranian crude or insuring shipments under the sanctions.

“They signal our clear determination to intensify the peaceful diplomatic pressure,” the British foreign secretary, William Hague, said in a statement.

So far, sanctions have not forced Iran into concessions on its nuclear programme – in fact, it has demanded they stop before it takes steps to curb uranium enrichment. France and Britain have signalled further measures could follow.

The US has also imposed a fresh round of sanctions that could punish foreign countries dealing in Iranian oil, although it gave exemptions to 20 major oil buyers who are reducing purchases.

“All possible options have been planned in government to counter sanctions,” the Iranian oil minister, Rostam Qasemi, said in comments on the ministry’s website.

Qasemi said oil importers would be the big losers if a blockade led to price rises.

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