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30 January 2012 - 12:53

A senior Iranian oil official says the price of crude could reach USD150 a barrel in the aftermath of new sanctions imposed by the European Union on Iranian oil imports.

Managing Director of the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) Ahmad Qalebani said Sunday the miscalculated and hardline EU stance on Iran will compel other countries to lose their confidence in the 27-member bloc as a reliable business partner, and seek to forge economic relations with those states, which value stable business ties the most.

He added that global economic and business blocs will experience tremendous shocks from the EU oil embargo on Tehran, stressing that the West will suffer the most from such a measure.

Qalebani highlighted that Iran, given its rich energy resources, has the upper hand over European states should the latter seek to further politicize the energy issue.

The sale of some 18 percent of Iranian oil to a market other than the EU is potentially possible. However, Iran's long-term idea is to increase refining capacities to produce valuable products, Iran's deputy oil minister said.

Qalebani pointed out that countries like China, India and South Korea place national interests before engagement in political games, and view Iran -- OPEC's second largest producer - as a dependable energy supplier.

He said more than 70 percent of Iran's crude oil is currently being sold on the Asian market.

The NIOC managing director stated that neither heavy nor light Saudi crude oil can compensate for Iranian oil exports in case sanctions against Iran's oil sector are enacted.

European Union foreign ministers agreed to ban oil imports from Iran on January 23, and to freeze the assets of the Iranian Central Bank across the EU.

The European Union also imposed a ban on the sale of grains, gold, diamonds, and other precious metals to Iran.

EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton said the sanctions are aimed at pressuring Iran to return to talks over the nuclear program.

The embargo followed an earlier announcement by Ashton, who said the P5+1 group -- comprising the US, the UK, Russia, France, China and Germany -- was ready to resume nuclear talks with Iran.

The Russian foreign ministry described the Iranian oil embargo as a "deeply mistaken" move, which would not encourage Tehran to return to the negotiating table.
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News ID 181439