TEHRAN, Sept. 10 (UPI) -- An energy executive in Iran said the country delivered its first shipment of crude oil to foreign buyers from the private sector despite Western sanctions.
The U.S. and European governments have targeted the Iranian energy sector with sanctions to try to convince Tehran to be more open about its nuclear program. Iran's critics suspect the country may be financing a nuclear weapons program with revenue generated from oil. Tehran says the program is peaceful.
Hassan Khosrojerdi, chairman of a union of Iranian oil exports, told the semiofficial Mehr News Agency that private companies delivered oil to the foreign market for the first time Sunday.
He said an agreement with unspecified entities allows private companies to export about 20 percent of the country's total oil deliveries designated for the international market.
"This equates to around 400,000 to 500,000 barrels of oil per day," he said.
The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, in its August report, reported average overall member state production at 31.2 million barrels of oil per day, down 160,000 bpd in part on decreases from Iran, Saudi Arabia, Libya and Angola.
Sanctions pressure from the United States and Europe have affected Iran's crude oil consumer base. Domestic oil demand in Iran, however, increased in May 7.9 percent, said OPEC, in large part because of an increase in gasoline consumption.