Iran will continue exporting crude oil despite US pressure, says Rouhani

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (pictured) at the inauguration of the newly built extension of the port of Chabahar, near the Pakistani border, on the Gulf of Oman, in southeastern Iran, on Sunday
Iran will continue to export oil despite US pressure aimed at reducing the country's crude shipments to zero, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday.

"America's decision that Iran's oil exports must reach zero is a wrong and mistaken decision, and we won't let this decision be executed and operational," Rouhani said in a speech broadcast live on state television.

"In future months, the Americans themselves will see that we will continue our oil exports."

Oil prices hit their highest since November in recent days after Washington said all waivers for sanctions-hit Iranian oil would end this week, pressuring importers to stop buying from Tehran and further tightening global supply.

The United States demanded on April 22 that buyers of Iranian oil stop purchases by May 1 or face sanctions, ending six months of waivers that had allowed Iran's eight biggest customers, most of them in Asia, to import limited volumes.

Rouhani said if the United States can block one method for Iran to export oil, Tehran will find other ways to do so.

On Tuesday, National Iranian Oil Co offered 1 million barrels of heavy crude on the Iran Energy Exchange (IRENEX) in an attempt to attract new, private buyers.

Trading in crude oil is state-controlled in Iran, but to try to work around US sanctions, the government last year started selling to private buyers through the exchange.

Fars news agency reported that 70,000 barrels were sold at $60.68 a barrel. Iran does not reveal the identity of private buyers on the energy exchange because they might be targeted by US penalties.

President Hassan Rouhani called on Iranian workers Tuesday to boost non-oil exports and import substitution, telling them they were "on the front line" against America and its tightening sanctions.

Last year, President Donald Trump reimposed crippling US sanctions after abandoning a landmark nuclear agreement between major powers and Iran.

Last week, his administration announced that from Thursday it would end oil purchase waivers granted to Iran's main customers including China, India and Turkey.

The move has piled new pressure on Iran's reeling economy that the International Monetary Fund was already projecting would shrink by 6.0 percent this year.

Addressing workers in a south Tehran sports complex on the eve of May Day, Rouhani said that boosting Iran's manufacturing output was vital to shore up the value of the rial.

"Whenever you go for self-sufficiency, you have increased the national currency's value and the more you can increase production for exports, you have increased our foreign currency revenue," Rouhani said in the speech broadcast live on state television.

"America's purpose in cutting oil exports is to reduce our foreign currency revenue and the way to counter it is through the production and export of non-oil goods," he added.

According to Iran's economy minister Farhad Dezhpasand, non-oil exports reached USD 40 billion for 2018-19.

That tops Iran's oil revenues projection for 2019-2020 of USD 30 billion.

But despite regulations in place requiring exporters to repatriate profits, only a quarter of non-oil earnings were returned to Iran.

Rouhani vowed that despite the unilateral measures adopted by the United States, Iran would continue to supply oil to its major customers, all three of whom have expressed anger at Washington's attempt to impose its will.

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