A team of U.N. inspectors arrived in Tehran on Monday for talks on Iran's nuclear programme, a day after the Islamic Republic ordered a halt to its oil sales to British and French companies in apparent retaliation for tightening EU sanctions.
The European Union enraged Tehran last month when it decided to impose a boycott on its oil from July 1. Iran, the world's fifth-largest oil exporter, responded by threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz, the main Gulf oil shipping lane.
On Sunday, its oil ministry went a step further, announcing Iran has now stopped selling oil to French and British companies, a move which will however have little or no impact on supplies reaching France or Britain.
"Exporting crude to British and French companies has been stopped ... we will sell our oil to new customers," spokesman Alireza Nikzad was quoted as saying on the ministry website.
The five-member team from the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will hold two days of talks in Iran.
The European Commission says the bloc would not be short of oil if Iran stopped crude exports as it has enough stock to meet its needs for around 120 days.
Industry sources said European oil buyers were already making big cuts in purchases from Iran months in advance of EU sanctions.
French and Anglo/Dutch oil majors Total and Shell have been big buyers of Iranian crude but Total had already stopped buying from Iran and traders said last week that Shell had scaled back sharply.
Shell, which has declined comment on its trade with Iran, was one of the biggest consumers of Iranian crude globally, taking about 100,000 barrels daily into Europe and about the same amount to its Japanese subsidiary, Showa Shell.
Latest EU data, for the third quarter of 2011, shows that oil sales into Britain fell to zero and France imported 75,000 bpd, accounting for just 6 percent of its crude oil imports. Debt-ridden Greece is most exposed to Iranian crude disruption among European countries.
Last Mod: 20 Şubat 2012, 14:56