Total stops gas sales to Iran

29 Jun 2010

French oil company Total SA said Monday it has stopped shipping gasoline to Iran after the US and European Union recently passed tough new sanctions against the Islamic Republic. “I can confirm that we have suspended sales to Iran,” Total spokesman Paul Floren said.
The announcement deals another blow to Iran – Total has in recent months been one of the country’s top gasoline suppliers, according to traders. The French company has for months been alone among major oil companies in continuing to ship gasoline to Iran, saying a US ban on gasoline was unworkable. But the company, which needs to protect key interests in the US, had also pledged to halt gasoline sales to Iran if the US passed sanctions targeting this type of transactions.

The American Congress on Thursday approved sanctions that will, for the first time, focus on foreign energy firms selling refined products to the Islamic Republic. Other oil majors—including Anglo-Dutch company Royal Dutch Shell PLC and international oil traders Vitol SA and Glencore International AG—have halted gasoline imports to Iran in recent months. Iran partly relies on imports for its consumption of refined products. It says it will become self-sufficient in the next three years, a target the International Energy Agency says is “implausible.”

The refined-products sector is the latest target of the US amid mounting pressure over Iran’s nuclear program. This month, the United Nations and the EU separately agreed to widen sanctions, with the EU targeting Iran’s gas and oil industry. Sanctions have already hindered the development of Iran’s petroleum sector. Iran is the second-largest oil producer in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and the second-largest holder of global natural-gas reserves. The Paris-based International Energy Agency in June forecast that Iran’s oil-pumping capacity will drop about 18%, or about 700,000 barrels a day, from current levels, to 3.3 million barrels a day by 2015.

Tensions could mount further after Central Intelligence Agency Director Leon Panetta said Sunday that Iran could develop nuclear weapons in two years if it wanted. Iran insists its nuclear program is peaceful while the West suspects it has military aims.

source: The Wall Street Journal

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