|Russia rejects U.S. warnings over oil deal with Iran||
TEHRAN – A senior Russian diplomat on Wednesday angrily rejected U.S. warnings against striking an oil-for-goods contract with Iran, saying that Moscow would not be intimidated by threats, the Associated Press reported.
Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said that an increase in Russian-Iranian trade is a “natural process that doesn’t involve any elements of political or economic challenge to anyone.”
Russian business daily Kommersant has reported that Moscow plans to buy 500,000 barrels of Iranian oil a day, a deal that would shatter an export limit defined by an interim nuclear agreement Iran and the major powers reached last year.
Iran has agreed to temporarily limit its nuclear work in return for some sanctions relief. Iran and the 5+1 group (the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany) are working on a final deal to help resolve the decade-long dispute over Tehran’s nuclear program.
The six-month interim agreement, which went into effect in January and expires in July, allows Iran to continue exporting a total of 1 million barrels a day of oil to six countries: China, India, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Turkey. The promise did not apply to Russia, which was not an existing customer of Iran’s petroleum industry.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Tuesday that Washington could impose sanctions if Russia and Iran move forward with the oil contract.
Ryabkov said he was unaware of any specific agreements, adding that a “normal exchange of opinions with Iranian colleagues has been going on to determine which sectors of economy are best suited for further development of ties.”
He insisted that Russia wants to develop its ties with Iran and rejected the U.S. threat to impose sanctions.
“We don’t think that any unilateral U.S. sanctions, no matter whom they target, are legitimate, and we reject such a stance,” he said.
On Thursday, U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew told his Russian counterpart that any oil-for-goods deal Moscow might strike with Iran could run afoul of U.S. sanctions, Reuters reported.
“Secretary Lew reiterated our serious concerns regarding reports of a possible deal between Russia and Iran involving oil-for-goods,” a Treasury representative said in a statement after Lew met with Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov.
“He made clear that such a deal ... could trigger sanctions against any entity or individual involved in any related transactions,” the representative said.
Lew also told Siluanov a deal would run counter to the interim nuclear deal between Iran and the major powers.
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