Iran asks OPEC states not to raise oil output
Iran has asked OPEC members not to raise oil production to compensate for a European Union embargo against the Islamic republic, Oil Minister Rostam Qasemi said on Saturday.
Qasemi said the request was forwarded in a letter to Iraq, the current head of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries.
The European Union, which imports about 20 percent of Iran's oil exports, adopted an oil embargo against Tehran on January 23 that would gradually cut purchases of crude from the country during the next five months.
The measure was the latest effort by Western countries to curtail Iran's nuclear programme.
"We have asked the current head of OPEC to tell members to respect the interests of other members and the rules of cooperation" within the oil cartel, Qasemi told a news conference.
Qasemi said Tehran had also made the request to Saudi Arabia, OPEC's biggest producer which has said it is ready to make up for any shortfall in Iran's oil exports under the new Western sanctions.
He did not give any other details, nor did he say when Iran had issued the request to Saudi Arabia.
Mehr news agency said the letter was sent to Iraqi Oil Minister Abdelkarim al-Luaybi.
It said that the letter criticised those willing to boost their production levels instead of observing "a policy of cooperation consistent with the interests of all members."
Iran has repeatedly warned Gulf Arab states in recent weeks against any "unfriendly" attempts to increase oil production to compensate for tensions on the global market.
If Arab neighbours compensate for the ban, "they will be held responsible for what happens," Iran's representative to OPEC, Mohammad Ali Khatibi, said in mid-January.
"One cannot predict the consequences," Khatibi said.
Iran is the second-biggest producer in OPEC, behind Saudi Arabia. It pumps some 3.5 million barrels a day and exports 2.5 million bpd -- 70 percent of which goes to Asia, mainly China and India.
Europe imported 600,000 barrels from Iran on a daily basis in the first 10 months of 2011.
Iranian officials and lawmakers have expressed anger at the EU move, threatening to impose a pre-emptive ban on oil exports to European countries.
Iran's parliament has also warned it is studying a proposed bill to immediately cut oil exports to Europe in retaliation for the ban, according to its energy commission.
Qasemi echoed the threat on Saturday, saying exports to "some European countries will be definitely cut," without naming any countries.
"The decision regarding a halt of export to other European countries will be taken in the future," he said.
His remarks came a day after Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said the Islamic republic would respond with threats of its own against intensifying Western sanctions against Tehran's nuclear programme.
"The United States and others have to know -- and they know -- that, in response to threats of oil embargo and war, we have our own threats which will be implemented at the right time, if necessary," said Khamenei, who has the final say on all state affairs.
Qasemi meanwhile called on the European Union to review its oil embargo.
"Unfortunately the EU has surrendered to the American's pressure. We hope they will reconsider... because the people of the continent will have to pay a heavy price" for the Iranian embargo, he said.
He said while the oil market was "balanced" at the moment, no one could estimate a "definite" price for the future of oil.
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