A number of European countries have called for a postponement of the EU’s embargo on Iranian oil.
Reuters previously had reported that the EU would formally decide on imposing sanctions on Iranian oil by the end of January. However, reports indicate that a number of EU countries are now pushing for a delay, fearing that rising oil prices would have an adverse effect on their debt-stricken economies.
Reuters cited an anonymous diplomat saying: “There is a range of ideas from one month to one year.”
He went on to add that Greece, which relies heavily on Iranian oil imports, is calling for “the longest grace period on existing oil contracts.”
Britain, France and the Netherlands want a maximum three-month delay, while Greece, which gets a quarter of its oil imports from Iran, is pushing for one year.
About 59 percent of Iranian oil is sold to China, Japan, India, South Korea and Turkey. EU countries receive 18 percent of Iranian crude exports, with Italy, Spain and Greece heading the list.
In response to the threat of an EU oil embargo, the head of international affairs for the Iran National Oil Company told Reuters that Iran can easily find other customers for its crude exports.
China has denounced unilateral sanctions against Iran, while Russia and India have also criticized imposing sanctions on Iran beyond existing UN resolutions.
The new wave of sanctions against Iran was triggered by a report from the International Atomic Energy Agency, indicating possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear program.
Iran has denied the allegations and insists its nuclear program is peaceful. Iran insists that it has a right to enrich uranium for civilian purposes.