Iran said Friday that its crude oil exports rose by 100,000 barrels a day in January, to 1.32 million barrels a day, amid rising global demand following an interim deal with world powers over its nuclear program.
Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency quoted a Thursday report from the International Energy Agency, a Paris-based intergovernmental body, saying, “Imports of Iranian crude rose by 100,000 barrels a day last month, with China, Japan and India taking more oil as a deal easing sanctions over Iran’s nuclear program took effect.”
Fars said the interim accord on Iran’s nuclear program, signed in November and implemented last month, had eased restrictions on insurance for Iran’s oil shipments, and allowed six buyers – Turkey, China, Japan, India, South Korea and Taiwan – to maintain Iranian crude imports without penalties despite ongoing sanctions.
AFP reported earlier this week that Iran’s oil ministry is preparing “a new type of contract that would be more attractive to major oil companies in case of the lifting of international sanctions.” The new contract, said by an Iranian official to provide “maximum flexibility in all areas, including operation, cooperation and bureaucracy,” is to be presented to international companies at a major conference in London in November, the official said.
In Vienna next week, the P5+1 powers are set to begin talks with Iran on a permanent accord regarding its rogue nuclear program, which the US, Israel and others in the West fear is aimed at giving Iran nuclear weapons. Tehran denies seeking nuclear arms.
Israel castigated the Geneva interim deal for enabling Iran to continue low-level uranium enrichment, for failing to tackle Iranian missile and weaponization programs, for allowing ongoing Iranian nuclear-related research and other alleged flaws, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu branding the deal a “historic mistake.” Netanyahu warned that the accord, with its provisions for the easing of some non-core sanctions on Iran, might presage the collapse of the entire sanctions regime.
Ahead of next week’s talks, Netanyahu charged a team led by Israel’s Minister for Strategic Affairs to meet with the chief US negotiator with Iran, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman. Netanyahu wants the permanent deal to dismantle what he calls Iran’s “military nuclear program,” and has warned that Israel will thwart Iran’s nuclear drive if necessary.
Sherman last week told a Senate hearing that Iran’s ballistic missile program would be addressed in the comprehensive deal. But on Monday, Iran’s deputy foreign minister Abbas Araqchi, who is also a senior Iranian nuclear negotiator, said “the defense-related issues are a red line for Iran.”
Iran’s nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi declared Monday that his country has developed a new generation of centrifuges 15 times more powerful than those currently being used to enrich uranium, and said Iran might resume enrichment to 60% if necessary.