Iran denounces US Senate's approval of gasoline sanctions

Eric Watkins
OGJ Oil Diplomacy Editor

LOS ANGELES, Jan. 29 -- Iran has condemned the US Senate for approving gasoline import sanctions against the Middle Eastern country, saying it follows Washington’s traditional line of ineffective policy-making.

“We have repeatedly announced that the sanctions the US has imposed against our people over the past 31 years…have had no result but solidifying the resolve and intention of our nation to seek independence and self-sufficiency and attain highest levels of sophisticated technology,” said Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast.

“We have always announced that the war-mongering and military build-up policies of the unilateralist countries under the pretext of solving regional crisis are wrong as their failure has repeatedly been emphasized,” Ramin said.

Iran’s criticism came after the US Senate voted to strengthen existing sanctions against Iran and impose new ones which target its gasoline supplies as part of Washington’s effort to dissuade Tehran from pursuing nuclear weapons and cracking down on internal dissent.

“We have all watched the Iranian regime oppress its own people on the streets of Iran and continue to defy the international community on nuclear issues,” said Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.). “That is why it is so important that we move this legislation forward quickly.”

Gasoline prices rising
This week’s Senate measure coincided with reports that Middle East gasoline prices rose this week due to slightly higher demand in the region—especially from Iran, one of the region’s main consumer markets.

“What we are seeing is that demand has been picking up as Iran starts its stockbuild exercise in anticipation of stricter sanctions from the US,” said one Asian-based trader.

Earlier this month, traders said Iran’s January gasoline imports were expected to rise by 23% over December, as the Islamic republic continued to build stocks as the threat of stricter sanctions loomed.

They said Tehran was likely to import as much as 128,000 b/d of gasoline from the international spot market or about 15 cargoes. The increase amounted to 25,000 b/d over the 103,609 b/d of gasoline Iran imported in December.

“There was a flurry of activities towards the end of the month. It looks like they are now building inventories,” said one Middle East-based trader at the time.

That build-up came after the US House of Representatives passed legislation in December authorizing President Barack Obama to levy sanctions on companies that directly provide gasoline to Iran, along with firms that provide insurance and tankers to facilitate fuel shipments (OGJ Online, Dec. 16, 2009).

At that time, reports said Iran was already storing about 1.45 million bbl of gasoline on tankers as it slowly built inventories in anticipation of the tougher sanctions regime.

Traders said the fuel was being stored on at least six oil tankers anchored in Iranian waters, a build-up which had been steadily taking place since September, traders said.

“They are definitely in a bit of a bind, they want to build inventories but at the same time they are struggling to find the money to buy surplus product,” a trader said.

Contact Eric Watkins at hippalus@yahoo.com.

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