US rules out sanction exemptions to countries from Iranian oil import

US rules out sanction exemptions to countries from Iranian oil import
Representational Photo

The US has ruled out giving any exemption from its punitivesanctions to countries, including India, for buying oil from Iran, sayingAmerica's maximum pressure campaign was working and the Trump administrationremains "unwavering" in its tough policy on Tehran.

US President Trump last month refused to give waivers tocountries like India from buying oil from Iran, in an attempt to reduce Iran'soil exports to zero.

The US on Tuesday reiterated its position at a newsconference here after media reports from New Delhi, quoting unnamed governmentofficials, said that India was looking at ways to resume oil imports from Irandespite the US sanctions.

Last week, India's Ambassador to the US Harsh VardhanShringla said India had stopped buying oil from Iran after May 2 when the USended its waivers that allowed the top buyers of Iranian oil, including India,to continue their imports for six months.

The State Department said there was no change in its policyon Iranian sanctions.

"The Secretary (of State) has been very clear sinceApril 22nd that we are going to zero," Spokesperson of the StateDepartment Morgan Ortagus told reporters during an off-camera news conference.

"We have stated that there are no new exemptions afterMay 2 as it relates to importing Iranian oil. The US position there remainsquite firm," she said in response to a question.

The US reimposed sanctions on Iran in November after pullingout of a 2015 nuclear accord between Tehran and six other world powers.

Ortagus said the American sanctions on Iran were working.

"Our sanctions are working and I think that you'veheard the Secretary Brian Hook and myself go through a litany of ways in whichwe know that the sanctions are quite effective for Iran," she said.

Noting that the economic sanctions and the maximum pressurecampaign will remain in place, the spokesperson said that the both PresidentTrump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have said they will be willing to talkto the Iranian regime.

"But until then, we remain unwavering and unflinchingin our sanctions campaign and our maximum pressure campaign.  That's been our policy; that remains ourpolicy. And it's not just about a nuclear weapon. It's about Iran's support ofterrorism in the region, their malign behaviour throughout the region,"she said.

The US has been pretty overt in its signalling to theIranians, and its willingness to talk, she said.

"The maximum pressure campaign, economic sanctionsremain on the table. If they would like to take a serious look at the 12 pointsthat the Secretary laid out over a year ago, we'll be ready to talk about that.The President and the Secretary mean that sincerely," Ortagus said.

The United States has been talking to its European partnersas well over the issue, she said.

"One of the main things that we will continue to talkto our European partners and allies is the imminent threat from Iran that isfaced in the region," she said.

As of late April, India dropped its dependency on Iranianoil from about 2.5 million tonnes a month to 1 million tonnes a month, Shringlasaid last week.

"We do understand that this has been a priority for theUS administration, although it comes at a cost to us because we really need tofind alternative sources of energy," Shringla said.

India has stopped importing oil from both Iran andVenezuela, he said.

Noting that the US did talk of trying to maintain pricestability, Shringla said in the short term, there has been reduced pricestability.

Iran earlier used to supply 10 per cent of India's oilneeds.

After coming to power, Trump withdrew from the Iraniannuclear deal last year and has imposed stringent sanctions against what hedescribes as the "authoritarian" Iranian regime.

The US is seeking to ramp up pressure on Iran to counterwhat the White House perceives to be a potential threat.

Last month, the US designated Iran's Revolutionary Guard aforeign terrorist organisation, the first time the designation has been appliedto a government entity.

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