Iran: More high oil prices ahead for EU

Feb. 20, 2012 at 6:30 AM
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TEHRAN, Feb. 20 (UPI) -- Last week's spike in oil prices is what's in store for Europe if it follows through on moves to ban Iranian imports, a senior Tehran lawmaker says.

Hossein Ebrahimi, vice chairman of the Iranian Parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, told state-owned media Saturday the jump in benchmark Brent crude oil prices seen Thursday showed Europe will suffer economically if the EU embargo is fully deployed.

The benchmark level rose to more than $120 per barrel after Iranian news outlets announced Tehran had suspended exports to Italy, Spain, Netherlands, France, Greece and Portugal in a pre-emptive move against the sanctions.

That marked an 8-month high for Brent crude and created uncertainty as traders and analysts tried to assess Iran's intentions and their possible consequences.

"Upon cutting Iranian oil exports to the West, they will definitely face difficulties and we hope they will open their eyes to the move and stop taking illogical measures (against Iran)," Ebrahimi told the Fars News Agency.

At particular risk are European refineries, the lawmaker asserted, noting that 80 such facilities on the continent depend on Iranian supplies. Idling them, he said, would be "the best response" to the EU's energy and banking penalties against his country.

Iran has long predicted spiking oil prices would be result of the EU's sanctions, through which Western nations are hoping to slow Tehran's suspected nuclear weapons program.

Despite frequently voiced Western misgivings, Tehran says its nuclear activities are solely for peaceful purposes and has offered to have talks with the United States and the European Union, only "without preconditions."

The EU oil import ban is to fully come into effect July 1. In the meantime, EU members seeking to replace Iran's 500,000-barrel-per-day supplies are facing higher prices on the world market, Tehran says.

"The hurried decision by EU states to use oil as a political tool will have a negative impact on the world economy and especially on the recovering European economies which are fighting to overcome the global financial crisis," the Iranian Foreign Ministry said in a statement last month.

Iranian lawmakers said the country will quickly find other customers to replace Europe. For instance, China, which Friday renewed its contract with Tehran to import more than 500,000 barrels per day after a lengthy negotiation process.

The deal between state-owned Unipec, one of China's top importers, and the National Iranian Oil Co. showed China isn't going to cave in to the demands of the West to honor the sanctions, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Europe's crude oil stocks are already significantly low, analysts say.

Stocks in December were at a 15-year low, with overall crude stocks for developed countries falling 21.4 million barrels to 913 million barrels -- a sixth consecutive month of below average readings, The Financial Times reported.

The low supplies are partly the result of import disruptions due to turmoil in Yemen, Syria and South Sudan, Barclays Capital analyst Amrita Sen told the newspaper.

Those conflicts have cut Europe's supplies to the tune of 1 million barrels per day -- roughly the equivalent to the daily consumption of the Netherlands, she said.

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