TEHRAN, Dec. 11 (UPI) -- There is no oil-for-goods deal currently in place between Iran and Russia, Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh said Thursday.
"The barter of Iran's oil against Russian commodities is not true and no such an agreement has ever been signed," the minister said.
Zanganeh has hinted that the Iranian government endorsed such a deal, but nothing was formalized. Both sides already cooperate in a variety of fields, with Russia supplying fuel for Iran's nuclear reactor at Bushehr.
"The two countries only cooperate with each other in the oil and gas sectors," he said. "Iran will benefit from the technical and operational capabilities of Russian companies in the oil and gas industries."
His comments follow a November declaration from the Kremlin that it plans to sign contracts to deliver grain and possibly industrial products to the Iranians in exchange for oil.
Iran has long been searching for a way around the U.S. dollar to circumvent sanctions imposed by Western powers in response to its controversial nuclear program. The government said earlier this week, however, it was searching for ways to lessen the importance of oil revenue on the nation's economy.
The Iranian and Russian energy sectors are both targets of Western sanctions and both economies are contracting as a result. With oil prices off more than 30 percent from June, the World Bank said the Iranian economy has contracted at an annual rate of 1.7 percent for the current fiscal year.
Iran secured modest relief from energy-related sanctions in exchange for a commitment to curb parts of its nuclear research activity.
U.S. officials have said it would be troubling if an oil-for-goods deal between Iran and Russia were to materialize.