World Bulletin / News Desk
Iran acknowledged for the first time on Wednesday that its oil exports have fallen sharply, down 20-30 percent from normal volumes of 2.2 million barrels daily.
A National Iranian Oil Company official in Moscow denied exports had been hit by West sanctions against Iran's nuclear programme, saying that oilfields were under maintenance and crude production was being diverted for refining.
But the admission that exports have fallen substantially is a change of tack from Tehran which until now has denied that the U.S. and European sanctions have had much or any impact.
"It was 20 to 30 percent we reduce regarding to our export," NIOC official Mohammad Ali Emadi said in English. "Some part of the reduction is shifting for the refinery internally."
European Union bans on imports and tanker insurance for ships carrying Iranian crude are due to come into effect on July 1.
Emadi said Iran's normal crude exports were 2.2 million bpd, in line with external estimates. A 20-30 percent fall would put Iranian exports at 1.54-1.76 million bpd, off 440-660,000 bpd.
That is still above most third-party estimates which put Iran's crude exports in June at about 1.3 million bpd.
"We gradually started to reduce, It is not because of the sanctions but sometime regarding overhaul maintenance of the wells," said Emadi.
The NIOC official said Iran wanted to export more gas to India and Pakistan to make up for the fall in crude exports. Iran has long aspired to export gas east but would require heavy investment in a pipeline or liquefied natural gas facilities to do so.
Production from conflict-free mines are bagged and tagged with a barcode to make it easily traceable.
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The State Duma lower house on Friday ratified a 2012 agreement to write off the bulk of North Korea's debt. It said the total debt stood at $10.96 billion as of Sept. 17, 2012.
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Russia's oil output stands at over 10 million barrels per day, the world's largest, but it needs new sources of crude oil, including hard-to-recover deposits and the Arctic, to sustain this level
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When the system is in place citizens will be able to buy a limited amount of subsidised fuel, and will have to pay a normal, market price for any extra quantities.
Production in Upper Nile state's Paloch oilfields, where output has not been hampered by the conflict, stood at 159,000 barrels per day this week.
Dragomir Stoynev accused fellow European Union members of a politically-motivated attempt to scupper the project, and urged the bloc to understand the effect that doing so would have on its members.
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Japan's finance ministry and central bank have declined to comment on the payments.
But a survey shows that most people believe inflation is speeding up and could surpass 37 percent this year.
A fifth payment of $450 million was due on April 15, contingent on Iran having diluted half of its most sensitive stockpile of nuclear materials
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Pushed by higher food and shelter costs, the consumer price index rose in March.