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US to announce end to sanctions waivers for Iran oil imports: Washington Post

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The United States is preparing to announce on Monday that all importers of Iranian oil will have to end their imports shortly or be subject to US sanctions, a Washington Post columnist reported on Sunday.

[WASHINGTON] The United States is preparing to announce on Monday that all importers of Iranian oil will have to end their imports shortly or be subject to US sanctions, a Washington Post columnist reported on Sunday.

The US reimposed sanctions in November on exports of Iranian oil after President Donald Trump unilaterally pulled out of a 2015 nuclear accord between Iran and six world powers. Washington is pressuring Iran to curtail its nuclear program and stop backing militant proxies across the Middle East.

Along with sanctions, Washington has also granted waivers to eight economies that had reduced their purchases of Iranian oil, allowing them to continue buying it without incurring sanctions for six more months. They were China, India, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Turkey, Italy and Greece.

But on Monday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will announce "that, as of May 2, the State Department will no longer grant sanctions waivers to any country that is currently importing Iranian crude or condensate," the Post's columnist Josh Rogin said, citing two State Department officials that he did not name.

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Reuters was unable to independently verify the report. A State Department spokesman declined comment.

On Wednesday, Frank Fannon, US Assistant Secretary of State for Energy Resources, repeated the administration's position that "Our goal is to get to zero Iranian exports as quickly as possible."

Other countries have been watching to see whether the United States would continue the waivers. Last Tuesday, Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said that Turkey expects the United States to extend a waiver granted to Ankara to continue oil purchases from Iran without violating US sanctions.

Turkey did not support US sanctions policy on Iran and did not think it would yield the desired result, Kalin told reporters in Washington.

Washington has a campaign of "maximum economic pressure" on Iran and through sanctions, it eventually aims to halt Iranian oil exports and thereby choke Tehran's main source of revenue.

So far in April, Iranian exports were averaging below 1 million barrels per day (bpd), according to Refinitiv Eikon data and two other companies that track such exports and declined to be identified.

That is lower than at least 1.1 million bpd as estimated for March, and down from more than 2.5 million bpd before sanctions were reimposed last May.

In futures trading overnight, Brent crude, the international oil benchmark, was up 0.6 per cent at US$72.41 a barrel, highest since November of last year.

REUTERS