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Iran's non-oil exports on the rise

Iran says it's working to diversify an economy pressured by sanctions, low oil prices.

By Daniel J. Graeber

TEHRAN, Jan. 2 (UPI) -- Non-oil exports from Iran have increased by around 20 percent since March as the economy broadens its diversity, a customs official said.

Masoud Karbasian, director of the Iranian Customs Administration, said non-oil exports from the beginning of the Iranian year, which starts in March, increased to $35 billion, or about 20 percent year-on-year.

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The director said construction materials, as well as petrochemicals and produce, were among the major non-oil products exported from the Islamic republic. Non-oil exports from a border crossing to Iraq are valued at $777 million per day, he added.

Traditionally, Iran relies heavily on oil for revenue. With sanctions restricting oil exports, the government has worked to advance other parts of the economy.

Ali Taieb Nia, Iran's minister of economic affairs and finance, told a joint meeting of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund in October the strategy was working.

"Bright economic outlook and signs for growth and recovery have appeared," he said.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in December said the government aimed to increase non-oil exports to $50 billion by the next calendar year.

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The low price of oil, meanwhile, is putting pressure on an already-limited oil export climate for Iran. Rouhani described the decline in crude oil prices as a conspiracy launched by Iran's rivals.

Saudi Arabia, seen as the kingpin of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, last month said it was keeping its oil production steady despite a market already skewed toward the supply side.

Iran's former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, head of the powerful Expediency Council, said the purpose of the 12-member OPEC, of which Iran is a member, is to support the interests of oil producers.

Iran has said it favors a market where oil sells for around $100 per barrel, about 45 percent higher than current prices.

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