NEW DELHI, June 17 (UPI) -- The Indian government said it wants to secure more oil imports from Iraq as it moves away from Iranian supplies, the result of international sanctions.
Indian External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid is scheduled to head to Iraq Wednesday for a two-day visit to discuss potential opportunities for oil imports. The government said he would work to put Iraq at the top of its supplier base to replace Iran, the Press Trust of India reported Sunday.
Until recently, Iran was the No. 2 oil exporter to India after Saudi Arabia. Iranian exports of crude oil to India in 2013 declined 35 percent year-on-year to 97 million barrels annually because of sanctions pressure from the United States and European Union.
The U.S. government extended a wavier on sanctions to India recently because of significant declines in crude oil imports from Iran. Sanctions are meant to starve Iran of the finances needed to support nuclear research.
Khurshid is the first senior government official from India to visit Iraq in more than 20 years. He is scheduled to meet Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and senior government officials during his visit.