'No concern' over finding new buyers: Iran - Emirates24|7

'No concern' over finding new buyers: Iran

Iran, OPEC's second largest producer, said it has "no concern" finding new customers for its crude after the European Union decided to impose an embargo on Iranian oil exports, local media reported.

"Iran exports only 18 percent of its oil to Europe and the rest is exported to other markets," said an Iranian oil ministry statement carried by official media late Monday night.

"Considering the market situation, there is no concern about finding new customers and the oil ministry made arrangements a long time ago to deal with any challenge," it added.

Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast echoed the comments by the oil ministry, warning on Monday evening that Tehran would immediately replace any country that turned its back on Iran's vast energy reserves.

The European Union on Monday slapped an embargo on Iranian oil exports as the West ramped up pressure on Tehran over its controversial nuclear drive and urged it to return to the negotiating table.

Islamic republic denies that its nuclear programme is for military purposes, insisting it is for civilian use.

EU foreign ministers agreed on an immediate ban on oil imports and a phase-out of existing contracts up to July 1. They also froze the assets of Iran's central bank while ensuring legitimate trade under strict conditions.

The bloc imported some 600,000 barrels per day of Iranian oil in the first 10 months of last year, making it a key market alongside India and China, which has refused to bow to pressure from Washington to dry up Iran's oil revenues.

The new EU sanctions meanwhile would make it even more difficult for Iran, to be paid in foreign currency for its oil exports, worth more than 100 billion dollars in 2011.

US President Barack Obama on Monday lauded the EU move to choke Tehran's oil exports, amid evidence that sanctions are beginning to bite.

"I applaud today's actions by our partners in the European Union," Obama said.

Oil prices were also up modestly Monday after the EU announced its embargo on Iran's crude exports with Brent North Sea crude for March climbing 72 cents to ê110.58 a barrel in London.

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